Book review: Sea and Soul by Shari Branning

The last few books I’ve reviewed in here have been less than favorable. So, let’s review a book I actually liked!

Sea and Soul, by Shari Branning

An evil queen sits on the throne, and the Seer has seen a curse is coming.

When empath Dylan Blaine is summoned to a gala on the Isle of Selkies, he knows it will likely spell his doom. But you can’t turn down a summons from a seer. His fears are justified when he encounters Lyselle, a sorceress who wants his power for her own.

Selkie heiress Kiah of Lomasi doesn’t know what help she could possibly be in the Seer’s game against the Witch Queen, but then disaster strikes as they’re leaving the gala, and she’s the only one who can save Dylan’s life.

Will Dylan, Kiah, and a handful of others that the Seer has brought together be able to navigate court politics, black magic, assassins, and monsters to keep their country from destruction? Or will the Witch Queen, who’s been sacrificing people with magic to feed her own stolen powers, end them all?

Sea and Soul is the first book in the Seer’s Gambit series, but can be read on its own or out of order.

Amazon link


This book is kind of like urban fantasy, but it’s not. It’s kind of like paranormal romance, but it’s not. This is almost a fairytale set in modern day. It has an evil stepmother queen, witches, princesses, selkies, werewolves, elves, and a cursed forest. But it also has guns, helicopters, motorboats, cars, and cell phones. In fact, people use magic mirrors and cellphones side by side. The setting is based on Alaska, so the city is built on a rugged coast of cliffs and restless seas. I can’t remember the last time I read a fantasy book set in Alaska.

Dylan is an empath, which means he has the ability to sense other people’s feelings. Instead of this making him touchy-feely, it makes him grouchy and snarky. Also, he’s been in fear for his life for years, because everybody wants an empath. A king with a leashed empath could always tell who his enemies are, or could control the emotions of anyone around him. The evil witch-queen wants him. Her sister, another witch, wants him. The elves want him, the selkies want him, everybody wants Dylan and his powers.

Thing is, humans don’t have magic. Dylan, as a human and being an empath, is very rare, and not exactly magic. For humans to get magic, they have to become a sorcerer and steal the magic from one of the magical races by sacrificing them and taking it from their blood. So for a witch queen to be in control of a country of magicals … this is really bad.

Dylan and a small group of others are brought together by the Seer and told that they need to become friends, because they’re going to have to work together to take down the witch queen and save their country. If they don’t, the whole country will be cursed, like the neighboring country of Marieadd, which got cursed after a war where everybody misused magic. That’s the whole cursed forest thing. The group aren’t sure about this, because everybody has their own secrets. But this isn’t a team-up book. Each of these characters will get their own books, and let me tell you, I want them all.

Dylan walks out the door and is attacked by the witch, Lyselle, who wants this empath under her thumb before her sister gets to him. She puts a subjugation spell on him, which he fights until he’s almost dead. But he’s saved by Kiah, a selkie whose only magic is sea-based. (Selkies are a sort of were-seal.) To save Dylan and break the subjugation spell, Kiah has to replace it with a stronger spell–that of her coat, which in selkie culture, is how they get married.

So Dylan wakes up with this pretty white glowing tattoo thing wrapped across his chest and back, and it’s Kiah’s coat, and it can’t come off. So … they’re married and it’s awkward because they only met the previous night. Whoops.

So now, as they work together to fight the queen and Lyselle and help their friends, Dylan and Kiah have this growing attraction as they awkwardly try to date and get to know each other. The action kicks off and never lets up, with the queen drawing the net tighter and tighter. I won’t spoil any more, but it has a heck of an ending. Dylan learns to weaponize his empath powers, and it’s terrific.

Whenever I’ve read a book with someone who can sense feelings, it’s always a girl doing it. To have a guy who senses feelings … and then makes wisecracks … was oddly refreshing and fun. Dylan smarts off to his enemies, even when it costs him. There’s a lovely theme of faith and the power that faith bestows. There’s a wonderful picture of love vs lust and how different they are.

I’d recommend this book for teens and up. Even though it has the imagination and action of a young adult novel, the characters are in their 20s, and … well, I just mentioned the love vs lust thing. Nothing is shown, and there’s only a few hot kisses, but there’s quite a lot of stuff implied, if you get my meaning. Such as what the witch wants to do to Dylan. In Dylan’s own words, “Ew!”

I can’t wait for the next books with the other characters. Also, I did the cover art!

5/5 stars

Cinderella retelling – IN SPACE! Of Stars and Ashes

Finally, the sequel to The Song of the Rose is here: Of Stars and Ashes! The continuing saga of the alien Rox and their home system of Beta Pictoris B continues. These books are a series but can be read as a standalone.

Cinderella in space … if the glass slipper was a warship.

Rasha l’Cervantes, a Rox girl with beautiful golden horns, has been subjected to forced servitude along with the rest of her clan. While working in a quarry, she accidentally befriends a young neurolite, an armored insect that will one day grow up to become a spaceship. She also befriends a fellow prisoner, the ex-prince of her clan.

Kraz l’Cervantes made one bad political decision and now faces the dissolution of his clan. Everyone hates him except for a brave girl at the quarry: Rasha, who refuses to let him wallow in depression and forces him to eat.

The prisoners are separated and three years pass. Rasha recieves a summons to Kraz’s Choosing, a party where he will select a bride. But it is really an attempt to find the missing pilot of a neurolite frigate: a rogue frigate who is a danger to the fleet. Now Rasha must decide whether or not to Choose Kraz … if the deadly frigate doesn’t claim her life, first.

This is the second book in the Celestial Fairytales series, but can be read as a standalone.

Contains: Sweet romance, friends to lovers, no smut, spaceships, evil space fungus, military action, chases.

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After Atlantis: Sanctuary releases today!

I just love book launch days, they’re so exciting. Sanctuary goes live today, after two years of writing and revisions! This is superhero fantasy aimed more or less at adults, because there’s romance, but there’s nothing dirty, so kids could read it, too. I just think they’d be bored by the first half.

It’s not easy being Bloodbound.
Jayesh’s magic and life force are mingled with that of the magic island, Sanctuary, and he is desperately lonely. The girl of his dreams, Kari, has been his friend for months, but she is still grieving her dead boyfriend. When Jayesh kisses her for the first time, Kari has a vision of his magic, and she runs from him. Jayesh is crushed, and his wounded feelings begin to slowly destroy Sanctuary.
Meanwhile, in Atlantis, an outbreak of strange cobra-like centipedes attack Bygone Island. The only one who can heal their bites is Jayesh, and his friends need him at full strength. But his damaged relationship with Kari disrupts his judgment and leads him down a path toward self-sacrifice that none of his friends want.
Now Kari will have to make a choice. Her love for Jayesh must overcome her fear of him and his binding, for to love the Bloodbound is to become Bloodbound, too.

Sanctuary can be read as a standalone, but the two books before it are Bloodbound and Waygate

Currently only on Amazon, but I will update links as the other retailers go live over the next few days.


I’m going to keep doing art to promote this book for a while. Besides, it’s been fun to have an excuse to concept these characters out. 🙂

This is Cirrus Markone, (pronounced Mark One) the Shadow the Hedgehog of After Atlantis. If you’ve read the Guardian books of After Atlantis, you’ll know all about Cirrus. In Sanctuary, he becomes Jayesh’s unwilling mentor. Cirrus is a genetically-engineered wizard who looks down his nose at everybody around him and pretends not to care about anybody. His brand of mentorship is, “Suck it up, loser.” This winds up being good for Jayesh, who tends to dig himself into holes of self-pity. Also, Cirrus does not follow the Mentor Must Die trope. He’s a protagonist, himself, and has lots more awesome to do in the rest of the series.

Song of the Rose: Beauty and the Beast in space

It’s launch day for Song of the Rose! I’m sure there’s other space opera version of Beauty and the Beast, but this one is mine. 😀


The human race is at war with the Rox, a ferocious race of horned, demonic humanoids from space, and humanity is losing.

When the humans and Rox agree to a hostage exchange, Lieutenant Zayn is asked to volunteer because of her social standing. She will be housed with a prince of the Rox, and their good behavior will ensure that peace talks will go forward between their races. Zayn is terrified of sharing living space with one of the demons, but she agrees in order to bring about an end to the war.

Alnair l’Nath is a prince and commander in the Rox fleet. He is nervous about being shut in with a human princess who might knife him in the back, but he wants the war to end, too. He and Zayn despise each other on sight, even though Alnair finds her oddly attractive.

Zayn and Alnair gradually make peace as they discover that humans and Rox are not so different. But when a rogue agent of the Rox kidnaps Zayn and Alnair in order to end the peace talks and escalate the war, it will fall to a human and a Rox, and the growing love between them, to end the conflict forever.

This is a sweet romance with only mild kissing, but plenty of suspense and action.

Available on most retailers here


I wrote this book on accident. I’m kind of burned out on fairytale retellings, mostly because I’ve just read so many. They’re kind of predictable, because if you know the basic story, the retelling will hit the same story beats. And they’re also kind of like … 1500s medieval tech level, peasants and princes, Western European fantasy.

For some reason, my brain went, “But what if it was in SPACE?” And I had to start writing and playing with it. The first draft was much shorter, written in a week before Christmas as a gift for my writing group. They demanded that I go back and expand it. So I rewrote it from the ground up, and I think there’s about 1 page remaining of the original version. Which is fine, because the spaceships needed a lot more time to shine. While humans have regular spaceships, the aliens have these silicon-based lifeforms they fly around in. Their ships are sentient and have attitudes, kind of the dragon and rider dynamic. “You are my pilot and if anyone threatens you, I will vaporize them.” I wound up falling in love with my ships. I’m working on a second story in this same universe (Cinderella!) that is centered around a girl in a forced labor camp who accidentally imprints on a young ship … and he grows up into a giant frigate and demands that she be his pilot.

In Song of the Rose, Alnair and Zayn each think that the other is the beast. And the Roses wind up being this alien artifact that … well, I don’t want to spoil it. Read it for yourself. 🙂 🙂