Dragon slaying

‘Becoming the Chateran’ – S. J. Aisling

3-star-rating

Becoming the Chateran - S. J. Aisling

Becoming the Chateran – S. J. Aisling

When Princess Rhea’s actions inadvertently condemn two innocent knights to death, she wakes to the hard reality that not even nobility is above the law. All her attempts to remedy the situation only complicate it, however, until she finds herself a fugitive in her own kingdom, having dragged her best friend into the trouble, as well. Their only hope for pardon? To accompany Sir Paladin and Sir Zephen in their sentence:

Slay, or be slain by, the Dragons of Sama-Ael-Fen.

Travelling incognito, they meet with more malicious Phoenixes than could be coincidental, discover the mysterious disappearance of numerous citizens, and come face to face with a reawakened evil power. With the kingdom oblivious to the connection of these dangers, it’s up to Rhea and her outlaw companions to stop the rising threat and redeem their names – if they can survive their quest.

About the author:

Stacia Joy has always loved to tell stories and invent fictional lands and characters. But she never considered becoming a writer herself until age thirteen, when, inspired by a pretend play she invented with a friend, she wrote the first draft of ‘Becoming the Chateran’. The story has since expanded into what will become The Chateran Series. Stacia Joy also writes in several other genres, including steampunk and paranormal/science fiction, and occasionally writes poems about buffalo.

Wanting to be able to show others what her imagined universe looks like, Stacia Joy taught herself to draw by studying the work of illustrators like Alphonse Mucha, Arthur Rackham, Kate Seredy, and Jan Brett. She also received training in illustration and graphic design at Madison Area Technical College, and plans to become a full-fledged freelance illustrator before long.

When not immersed in writing or art, Stacia Joy spends her time playing the piano and folk harp, composing music, Irish dancing, singing at the top of her lungs, and learning new things. She also enjoys helping with children’s ministry at her church, and currently resides in the Madison, Wisconsin area with a kitten named Lord Peter Whimsey.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter / WebBlog

Review:

This lengthy fantasy novel follows the travels of princess Rhea who is desperate to protect the honour and reputation of Sir Paladin. After getting lost in the forest, he escorts Rhea back to the castle, only to be greeted with suspicion and resentment, particularly from Rhea’s newly-engaged fiancé. Sentenced to slaying two terrible dragons, Rhea makes up her mind to accompany Paladin and Sir Zephen on this quest. This book follows their adventures with plenty of magical scenes thrown in along the way.

Rhea’s character transforms over this novel. Initially I found her spoilt princess attitude quite irritating. The way she demands attention from Paladin and refuses to do as she is told, despite putting everyone in danger, was quite frustrating and there were times I felt she needed a good slap! However, Rhea does mature and become more worldly on her travels and I found myself liking her at the end. Her desire to prove Paladin’s innocence and make sure everyone knows the truth was admirable and I really warmed to her as the narrative progressed.

The group encounter many obstacles as they go, especially as everyone is looking for the missing princess. My favourite part of this book was when the group are stuck in and enchanted city that no one has any desire to leave from. The descriptions from author at this point are particularly vivid and I could really imagine the city in my head. I wished more had been made of this section in the story because it was so different from the rest of the locations that the group travel through, even if it meant that another part of the novel was reduced.

This is a rather lengthy novel and one that I think is definitely a “typical” fantasy. Elves, dragons and unusual creatures, this certainly ticks all of the boxes. If you enjoy reading fantasy novels, then ‘Becoming the Chateran’ is definitely one for you. Myself, I found it a bit of a trudge at times and wanted there to be a lot more pace to the story. Nonetheless, closing scenes certainly set up the following book and it is evident that this is not the last we will hear of princess Rhea.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Excerpt from the novel:

Shouting and confusion suddenly rose up from within the castle, and Julen, almost losing his footing once more, scrambled for a better hold on the window bars. He faced into the wind as it shoved him against the tower, the loud cry ringing off the walls of the castle once again, and his jaw dropped. A flashing, red thing was speeding through the air towards the castle. Its enormous wings created the gale that had suddenly burst out, followed by waves of heat. Julen couldn’t move, clinging to the tower in horror as the Dragon swept low over the castle.

Valkdrava… the rumors are true, then!

All the brown-tinted trees far below shook and creaked, leaves scattering thick on the blast of wind. The power of the Dragon’s wingbeats pushed Julen from his window ledge, and he tumbled down, landing miraculously on the castle wall fifteen feet below. Bursts of light exploded in his view, and he couldn’t breathe, but then larger, fiercer, and redder flashes rent the air above him, and the voice of Vanna crying out his name stirred him. Somehow he found himself on his feet, swaying like a reed in the wind, and yet clutching his drawn hunting knife in his fist. The Valkdrava banked on the sweltering wind of its own creation, sending hay from the stack by the stable, torn pennants, and loosened tiles swirling through the air. Opening its mouth, it sent a stream of fire onto the wooden structures inside the bailey. The terrified shrieks and cries of the horses and other livestock in the buildings filled the air, and the shouting and screams of people joined the din as the Dragon swooped down again and again, each time sending fire into yet another spot within the castle. Within moments, Julen found himself surrounded by flames on the walls, with no way of getting down into the bailey and helping.

A troop of guards and soldiers burst from the armory and raced towards the Dragon, which had just perched on top of the great hall’s roof with a splintering of large glass windows and an avalanche of carved stone and tiles. The Dragon gave one look at the advance, and within seconds, all that remained of the soldiers lay piled in ashes and twisted metal in the courtyard. Then the Dragon, after grinding in the roof of the great hall like a kitchen maid kneads dough, turned and fixed its livid eyes on Julen.

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Rich and intense

‘The Avatar of Calderia: Awakenings’ – David M. Echeandia 

3-star-rating

The Avatar of Calderia Book One: Awakenings - David M. Echeandia

The Avatar of Calderia Book One: Awakenings – David M. Echeandia

A Dark sorcerer is Awakened from eight hundred years of ensorcelled slumber, unleashing an ancient and terrible scourge upon the land as he uses his malevolent powers to enslave a continent and create an empire built on blood magic and death.

Across the Luminous Sea in Calderia, a crown prince grows to manhood, unaware that he carries within him a seed of divine power that must now be Awakened, if his people have any hope of surviving the evil sorcerer’s coming invasion of his homeland.

But to do so, the human prince must help forge an alliance with other warring nations, including his blood enemies, the Elves, and their warrior princess who wants him dead. Somehow, these sworn foes must join forces, gathering other companions as they undertake a perilous journey to find a hidden talisman, solve an age-old mystery, and save their world from oblivion.

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About the author:

David M. Echeandia

David M. Echeandia

“I was raised on the East Coast, enduring the freezing winters and loving New York pizza by the slice, the kind you fold in half and start eating with the hot melted cheese dripping down into your mouth. Now a psychologist, I live here in the California sun with my wife and daughter, and assorted pets. I don’t regret leaving the cold weather behind, but I do still miss the pizza.

I have been enamoured with science fiction/fantasy since I was (as my southern grandmother used to say) “knee-high to a grasshopper.” Thank the gods for ebooks, because I ran out of room to store my collection many moons ago. I enjoy reading, RPG’s, canning homegrown preserves, old time radio, more reading, and Scottish Highland Games (middle name is McMaster). I actually had a kilt of my clan tartan made, and I’ve been promising myself to learn how to play “Scotland the Brave” on the bagpipes. Perhaps one day…”

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter / Web

Review:

This book is what I would describe as a classic fantasy. It has very dense and lengthy descriptions and the plot felt very Lord of the rings-esque. And whilst the story did feature expected elements of a fantasy novel,  such as magic, sorcerers and elves to name but a few, it was very sexually explicit in places and this made it quite uncomfortable to read.

I initially found this quite a complicated plot to get my head around. As it is so in-depth, there are a lot of characters and with the unusual names, I did find myself getting lost with where loyalties were directed. I think this did lessen my enjoyment of the story and wonder that on reflection it would have been helpful if author had included a character list at the end of the story.  That being said, I enjoyed reading about the quest unravelling and was keen to see the chosen two begin their adventure to save the kingdom. We are given a lot of history about the characters and I felt this made them more interesting to read about. However,  sometimes the histories that were recounted were a little long winded,  but I guess that does fit in with author’s descriptive writing style.

I enjoyed reading about the prince and princess, particularly as they are forced to get to know one another. I think I can guess how their relationship will develop in the next story, but I liked the stubbornness that both showed towards each other. It will be interesting to read what role they play as they continue their quest and I hope the author throws in some surprises along the way. I was glad this book included the start of their journey together and found their initial discoveries enjoyable to read, clearly setting them up for the next stage of their journey.

My rating was really difficult to decide as I felt that in some places it was worthy of more than 3 stars, but at other times I found my mind drifting. Whilst the writing is very vivid,  there were times when I felt sections could be condensed and the pace could have picked up more.  I was also really surprised that author did not choose to close the story on the characters on the quest; readers have no idea about their progress and are instead left with a rather ominous finish. Effective maybe, but I did want to know what was happening to the prince and princess as a final update. I enjoyed the fantastical elements in this story but wished Echeandia had moved further away from Tolkien. Whilst it does work, I don’t think it was quite original enough and this is what gives this book a solid three out of five stars.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Give-away:

Author David M. Echeandia is giving away two $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble Gift Cards (winner’s choice) to two lucky winners! Enter with Rafflecopter.  The giveaway runs 5/3/14 – 20/3/14 (Midnight Eastern Time).

Excerpt from the novel:

Killian moved forward to the edge of the clearing, then turned and looked at Ellianthia, holding out his hand.  After some hesitation, she inhaled deeply and walked over to his side, raising her hand tentatively to press her palm to his.  The Elfin princess looked up at him, his flame-red hair gleaming in the sun, his blue eyes clear and bright with excitement.  What kind of power did this human possess, that he could so easily enter this sacred place, this Elfin sanctuary where even Mellisandria, an ancient Wise One, trod lightly?  She gripped his hand more tightly, wondering what might happen if she let go.

They walked directly to the mound, hearing no sound save that of their own footsteps, the pounding of their hearts, and the rustle of the grass as they brushed against it in their passing.  When they reached the mass of tangled vines and stood before the Stone, he felt humbled by its megalithic size and grandeur.  The surface visible beneath the branches and the blossoms appeared smooth and flawless, with no sign of weathering, as if time had stood still for ages here in this place of power.

Killian did not know what he was meant to do next, but he felt drawn to walk around the Stone while it waited for him to unlock its mystery.  Still leading Ellianthia by the hand, he had paced perhaps a quarter of the way around its base before he found that same palm-sized circle that he had seen in his vision, positioned partway up the side of the monolith.  Knowing instinctively that this was what he had been seeking, he raised his hand toward the circle and looked at Mellisandria for final confirmation that he should proceed.

“It is your destiny,” she said, nodding once.  With that, he stepped forward and placed his palm flat upon the circle.

At the instant of his touch, a brilliant flash of golden light erupted from the circle, encasing the Calderian prince and the Elfin princess. Then several gasps arose from the observers, Ellianthia’s loudest and nearest of all, for Killian’s eyes were two luminous orbs glowing with divine presence, as if the gods themselves had entered his body and now looked out through their Avatar upon the awestruck mortals gathered there.  In that moment, any lingering doubts that he was indeed the chosen vessel of the deities vanished from the minds of all who had witnessed it.

Almost immediately thereafter came a deep rumbling that shook the ground and rattled the lofty branches of the trees around them.  A strong gale sprang up, whipping hair and clothing about, and making them blink from the force blowing against their faces.  The deep vibration seemed to be emanating from within the Stone itself as, before their wind-stung eyes, a vertical crack appeared in that flawless gray surface.

Soon, the crack became a narrow crevice running down from top to bottom, then widened steadily into a rift that grumbled and creaked with every inch of movement, cleaving the granite and snapping the vines that covered it.  Then two stone doors, each some five feet in width, pivoted as if on hinges and swung outward, revealing a dark, mysterious opening into the monolith.

Killian glanced at Ellianthia, who was staring back at him with the same expression of shock written on the faces of the other Elves and humans waiting behind them on the edge of the clearing.  Though the glow in his eyes had dimmed, he was undeniably the prophecy fulfilled, for all could see that the “One who will come to split the stone” stood before them.  She tried to pull her hand away, but he shook his head slightly and pointed toward the opened doors, knowing that their presence was required there.  Gathering his courage, he led her inside.

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