From the Editor’s Desk: Ghosts by J.M. Frey

Welcome to the resurrected Book Review Wednesday! I have a whole slew of amazing books to review and share with you all, so rather than detract from the content I know many of you have been missing (the articles on publishing/editing/writing), I decided to add a posting day. Or, rather, to resuscitate one. So Friday will be returning to the snark-filled, sometimes-helpful articles you’ve all grown to love over the years, and Wednesday will be reserved for sharing book information, should I happen to have something to share. Sound good? Good.

Today’s offering is the newest release from J.M. Frey. Some of you may remember my review for the first book in this series, The Untold Tale, from a few months ago. Well, this is the next installment, a prequel novella that’s nothing short of fantastic.

Ghosts

by J.M. Frey

Ghosts

For seventeen years, Bevel Dom has been the author of his own story. Or, rather, he’s been the author of The Tales of Kintyre Turn, the illustrated scrolls chronicling his adventures as first the squire, then the colleague, and then finally the friend of legendary hero Kintyre Turn. But there are some stories that Bevel doesn’t write down, doesn’t tell to eager audiences of bright-eyed boys and sighing bar wenches in taverns. Some he simply folds into his heart and keeps. This is one of those tales.

In this prequel novella, fans of The Accidental Turn Series are offered a glimpse into the lives of Bevel Dom and Kintyre Turn shortly before their arrival at Turn Hall and the events that follow, further expanding upon the world and characters seen in The Untold Tale and the the upcoming sequel, The Forgotten Tale, coming Summer 2016.

First, let me just say that I adore Frey’s work. Not only is it intelligent, inclusive, and well-written, it’s also a refreshingly solid addition to the fantasy genre and a heck of a lot of fun. It’s the perfect example of fantasy written for modern times, with all the charm and appeal of its predecessors, and none of the staleness. And as a long-time fan of the fantasy genre, that trait alone is highly appealing.

But I think the thing that truly sets Frey’s work apart is the depth of emotional resonance she manages to pack into everything, be it novel or short story — or, in this case, novella. Written in the same fluid, yet classic-feeling style as the rest of the series, Ghosts gives readers a look into the inner mind of one Bevel Dom, sidekick to the infamous Kintyre Turn. Happening just before the events of The Untold Tale, Ghosts lays the groundwork for one of the novel’s “twists,” and expands upon the richly textured world of the series as a whole.

Bevel’s voice sings off the page with lively (and sometimes crass) wit, a stark contrast to the more refined notes Frey gave us in Forsyth, and the ensuing shenanigans paint a layer of the ridiculous over what is actually a rather heart-wrenching tale. Those who have read the novel will find the insight into the lives of Forsyth’s heroic brother and his lesser-known squire to be a satisfying extension of the arc seen in The Untold Tale. But you don’t have to read the novel to enjoy this small taste of the series. It can most definitely be read as a standalone, and I highly recommend that anyone looking for a new voice in fantasy give this novella a try. It packs a lot of punch for little investment and will introduce you to what is potentially one of the best new fantasy series out there. And I don’t just say that because I happened to have the honor of editing it, I truly believe that Frey’s work is not to be missed.

Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

 

From the Editor’s Desk: Dissolution by Lee S. Hawke

I’ve been kind of slacking on those book reviews I promised at the start of the year, but don’t worry, I’ve got a great one for you today. From the moment this author approached me about working on Dissolution, I knew I was going to love it. And when I read it, I was blown away by their talent. So it’s been hard for me to keep quiet, waiting for it to release. Thankfully, that moment has finally come and I can tell you all just how much I recommend you go buy this immediately. 😉

But first, here’s a little more info about this amazing novella:

Dissolution

by Lee S. Hawke

Dissolution by Lee S. Hawke

What would you sell yourself for?

Madeline knows. She’s spent the last eighteen years impatiently waiting for her Auctioning so she can sell herself to MERCE Solutions Limited for a hundred thousand credits. But when the Auctioneer fails to call her and two suits show up at her doorstep, Madeline discovers there are far worse bargains to be made.

So when your loved ones are in danger, there’s a bounty on your head, and your entire city might turn out to be a lie . . . what would you sell yourself for?

Now, I know what you’re thinking — yay, another dystopian to add to all the other dystopians flooding the market. But trust me, this one is unlike anything you’ve read. Yes, it does have some shades of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and even a bit of The Giver embedded in it, but the premise underneath those elements is refreshing, different, and thought-provoking. Everything a good science fiction tale should be.

Hawke’s world is dominated by corporations, and a person’s value is entirely dependent on how much they can give — what their productivity is likely to be, how their skills rank against the corporations’ needs. They’re not people, they’re drones, slaves. Licensed IP to be bought and traded and sold. It’s chilling, and a cautionary message to the workaholics of the world.

But while there is a very strong thread of social commentary running throughout, it takes a back seat to the larger tale, which is an action-packed cyberpunk thriller in the vein of Phillip K. Dick.

Madeline (Maddie) has spent her entire life dreaming of escape from ANRON Life Limited, pegging all her hopes on the possibility of being purchased by MERCE, the more technology oriented corporation where she can put her modding skills to good use and where she’ll no longer be a human lab rat. But after years of rigorous trials and tests, competition, and an interview process that feels more like an interrogation than an interview, she finds that there was never any chance for escape. Her life has always belonged to ANRON, and now, they want it back. They’re revoking her license, sentencing her to death in the name of science.

And she’s having none of it. Alone, disconnected from the technology that serves as a lifeline for most of the city’s denizens, and on the run, she learns the true difference between good and evil. And in the process, she discovers that the corporations aren’t as untouchable as they seem.

Brilliant, emotional, and intelligent, Dissolution is a highly satisfying read. It is a novella, but don’t let that scare you off. It’s a complete, self-contained, and moving tale that will challenge you to rethink your own views on corporations and technology in general. It’s a smart, well-written, amazing piece of storytelling and should not be missed.

And if you’d like a little additional incentive to check out this book, the author is hosting a crowdfunding campaign at the moment to help support The Royal Society of Victoria, an organization that promotes science education in Australia. So head on over there if you’d like to support a fantastic new author while also donating to a worthy cause.

For everyone else, here are the pertinent book links: Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

From the Editor’s Desk: From Under the Mountain by Cait Spivey

 

Welcome to my first book review of the year! There will be lots more in the months to come, but I’m super excited that this one happens to be first. Yes, I may have some particular vested interest in it, seeing as its one I had the privilege of working on and its written by a talented author I’m lucky enough to call friend, but more than that, I just plain adored this one. Toward the end of last year, I found a string of amazing fantasy novels, including Uprooted by Naomi Novik and The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey, and Spivey’s offering fit right in.

So let’s get to all the reasons you should run out and read this book immediately, shall we?

From Under the Mountain

by Cait Spivey

From Under the Mountain by Cait Spivey

As the second child of the Aridan imperial family, nineteen-year-old Guerline knows exactly what is expected of her: be unobtrusive, be compliant, and do not fall in love with her low-born companion, Eva. She has succeeded at only two of those.

But before her feelings for Eva can become a point of contention for the royal house, Guerline’s calm and narrow life is ripped away from her—in the course of a single night—and she is abruptly cast in the role of empress.

Faced with a council that aggressively fears the four witch clans charged with protecting Arido and believes they are, in fact, waging war against the humans, Guerline struggles to maintain order. As her control over the land crumbles, she learns that the war is rooted in a conflict much older than she realized—one centuries in the making, which is now crawling from under the mountain and into the light. With the fate of Arido hanging in the balance, Guerline must decide who to trust when even her closest councilors seem to have an agenda.

Darkly cinematic, From Under the Mountain pairs the sweeping landscape of epic fantasy with the personal journey of finding one’s voice in the world, posing the question: how do you define evil, when everything society tells you is a lie?

There is so much to love about this novel that I almost don’t know where to start. But first, let me say that although Amazon and other retailers seem to be primarily classing this as f/f romance, it is not. There is romance, yes, and it does feature a beautifully rendered f/f love story, but this book is, in fact, a brilliant example of dark fantasy done well.

Spivey establishes her prowess in the genre right from the first page, where we’re introduced to protagonist Guerline standing over the decaying, yet alive, bodies of her parents. This horrifying, slightly gruesome scene is merely a harbinger for what’s to come though, as Spivey proceeds to kill off the entire Imperial family — with the exception of Guerline, of course — by the end of the first chapter.

Suddenly thrust into a role she never expected to fill, the young empress has to navigate not only the intricacies of unraveling her own identity from what others expect her to be but the nuances of running a country poised on the brink of war. Humanity is turning against the witch-lords who have guarded the empire’s borders for centuries, and Guerline finds herself dealing with radical opinions on both sides. But the rift between human and witch, magic and politics is only the beginning of Guerline’s problems, as a creature that has been sealed away from the world for a millennium is finally about to get its revenge.

Spivey’s writing sings off the page with a cinematic flair that evoked the feel of a Studio Ghibli film, but the rotating, more traditional approach to the POV and fact that no one is as safe as they seem brought up visions of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. And I have to say that the blending of those two is nothing less than stunning.

But the thing that has always resonated most for me in Spivey’s work is her ability to create a fully realized cast of diverse characters and a world so richly textured it makes you want to live there indefinitely. Arido’s plight may encompass the standard sprawling map of high fantasy, but every detail is painstakingly accounted for, and the repercussions of what seem like small acts are felt throughout in an impressive example of the butterfly effect.

All in all, this is a gorgeous debut by an author who has clearly only begun her to literary stardom, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you’re a fan of high fantasy rife with political intrigue and the classic good vs evil scenario, if you enjoy dark fantasy with a fantastically creepy edge, or if you simply wish to escape into a world that treats everyone — regardless of gender or race or sexual orientation — with respect, then this is the book for you.  Seriously, go read it. It’s amazing.

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

 

From the Editor’s Desk: The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey

Welcome to my final post from 2015! The next time you hear from me, it’ll be January. Frightening, right? Don’t worry, though, I will be back with lots of new content, book reviews galore, and a few spiffy giveaways. Not unlike the one I introduced last week (hint, hint).

But before I go on my annual mini-hiatus, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite reads of the year. Yes, it is one I had the privilege of working on, but so much of how that happened felt guided by fate, or chance, or serendipity, or whatever name you prefer that I fully believe this book was meant to find its home at REUTS, and I was honored to be part of bringing it into the world.

So, without further (sappy) intro, I give you . . .

The Untold Tale

by J.M. Frey

The Untold Tale cover

Forsyth Turn is not a hero. Lordling of Turn Hall and Lysse Chipping, yes. Spymaster for the king, certainly. But hero? That’s his older brother’s job, and Kintyre Turn is nothing if not legendary. However, when a raid on the kingdom’s worst criminal results in the rescue of a bafflingly blunt woman, oddly named and even more oddly mannered, Forsyth finds his quaint, sedentary life is turned on its head.

Dragged reluctantly into a quest he never expected, and fighting villains that even his brother has never managed to best, Forsyth is forced to confront his own self-shame and the demons that come with always being second-best. And, more than that, when he finally realizes where Lucy came from and why she’s here, he’ll be forced to question not only his place in the world, but the very meaning of his own existence.

Smartly crafted, The Untold Tale gives agency to the unlikeliest of heroes: the silenced, the marginalized, and the overlooked. It asks what it really means to be a fan when the worlds you love don’t resemble the world you live in, celebrates the power of the written word, challenges tropes, and shows us what happens when someone stands up and refuses to remain a secondary character in their own life.

I knew from the moment I heard this book described in passing by the author’s agent that I was going to love it. I could just tell, like an instinct. And I was right. Frey’s tale is bold without being preachy, innovative while still being familiar, classic with a modern twist, and is easily among my all-time favorite reads ever.

Forsyth Turn is a swoon-worthy hero, though he is admittedly not what one pictures when they think of the leading man in an epic fantasy-adventure. Insecure, flawed, and adorably awkward, he’s real. But he’s more than just the point-of-view character, he’s the lens through which Frey paints her extremely relevant, extremely important message. Through him, we meet Pip, a woman who epitomizes what it means to be a fan, and who’s been literally pulled into her favorite fictional world. And through him, we watch as all the prejudices — intentional or otherwise — of the fantasy genre (and fiction in general) are brought to light.

The beauty in this book is that yes, it does challenge the tropes of the genre, and yes, it does give power to those who are too often overlooked, but it does so without sacrificing a single shred of expert storytelling at the altar of “message.” This isn’t a book with an agenda — it’s an example of what great literature should be: unabashedly inclusive and a reflection of reality. It is most definitely thought-provoking and an intelligent discourse on the state of literature, but at the end of the day, it’s the story of two people learning about themselves, facing down their personal demons, and falling in love.

The Untold Tale is written in a modern first-person present tense, and yet still somehow manages to evoke the spirits of literary greats (it has an Austen-like quality to me, though the author disagrees). Raw, often dark, and powerfully real, this is the kind of book that sticks with you long after you’ve read it, and I could not recommend it more.

In fact, you can enter for a chance to win a copy over at my Holiday Giveaway. And if you’d simply like to purchase it, click on the links below. 😉

Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

From the Editor’s Desk: Sachael Desires by Melody Winter

Happy Black Friday to my followers in the US. I know most of you are out there trying not to be trampled in that sacred tradition of scoring the best deal and likely won’t see this until next week. That’s okay. I understand. I’m not online either. 😉

But for everyone else, I bring new content. Yay! Yes, it’s a book review, brought to you by this here lovely book tour:

Sachael Desires Blog Tour Banner

But it’s still new content. That counts for something, right?

Anyway, on to the book! It’s a great one, and it’s brand new. So be sure to go grab a copy if you think it sounds like your cup of tea.

Sachael Desires

by Melody Winter

Sachael Desires by Melody Winter

During her ordeal with the Sect, Estelle Bailey dreamt of escaping back into the arms of the sea—and Azariah. But freedom came at a price, and though she’s back with the Sachael who’s stolen her heart, she’s also land-bound until the next full moon. And with the threat of Orontes looming ever larger behind them, Azariah, Estelle, and Michael—her once-captor turned rescuer and friend—are on the run.

Following Michael’s lead, they seek sanctuary amidst the natural beauty of the Orkney and Shetland Islands until Estelle can complete her next submergence ritual and Azariah can whisk her away to the safety of Saicean.
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Secrets, betrayals, and old enemies await them, though, and as events spiral out of control, Azariah makes a decision that puts all their lives at risk, forcing Estelle to face a journey she never wanted to take. With time running out and tempers running high, her only hope to save the man she loves lies in a reconciliation between two kingdoms who despise each other.

Book Two in the Mine Series, Sachael Desires further expands on the intricate underwater world of the Sachaels, and the hostility and isolation of not belonging.

Picking up where Sachael Dreams left off, Sachael Desires is exactly what you hope for in a sequel, suffering none of the sophomore-book blues that plague so many other series. Everything we loved about the original is back — the setting, the characters, the romance — but paired with all the excitement of something new.

One of my favorite aspects, apart from seeing the cast again, was the attention Winter paid to the world-building. We finally get to see the mythical Saicean, but even more importantly, we get to see the underwater world of the Sachaels and Oceanids in all its brutality. Richly described and realistic, Winter paints a portrait that is both fantastically imaginative and thought-provoking, providing subtle commentary on things like human nature, identity, sexism, ableism, and racial profiling within the fabric of Estelle’s journey.

Filled with twists and turns (and several pretty notable revelations about some of the characters that I won’t spoil), Sachael Desires is much more action driven than its predecessor.

The first book featured a plot that felt like romantic suspense with fantasy elements, but this one feels like an action-adventure blockbuster, with sweeping settings, beautifully crafted and well-imagined worlds, and an epic battle just waiting to be interpreted on the silver screen. And Winter manages to do all of this while still developing her characters and their relationships, peeling back the layers of their lives piece by piece to give us carefully timed glimpses of the whole.

While entirely satisfying as a follow-up, it is clear that there is much more still to be discovered in this world and series. And I, for one, cannot wait to see what happens next.

Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads