In search of goodness in modern books

A few years ago, I was listening to Elizabeth Elliot teach on the Fruits of the Spirit. I knew what Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, etc. were, but I’d never understood what Goodness was. It’s sandwiched in between kindness and gentleness, and my thinking was that Goodness was part of both of those. Kind of like saying “He’s nice.” It doesn’t mean anything.

So I was fascinated when Elizabeth Elliot defined Goodness as being high quality. “It’s like when we say, ‘This is a good cheese,’, or ‘This is a good vintage of wine’. In the same way, we are to be high-quality people.”

This stuck in my mind, especially as applied to writing. Was I portraying Goodness as desirable? Was I showing characters struggling to become higher and higher quality? After all, the refining process takes time and pain, both of which make for great stories.

Note: Holiness is: The state or character of being holy or sinless; purity of moral character; perfect freedom from all evil; sanctity.

Goodness is: The state or quality of being good, in any sense; excellence; purity; virtue; grace; benevolence.

Speaking of great stories, the other day, we were talking in my Discord about why Narnia and Lord of the Rings are still the Christian fantasy gold standards. One person said, “It’s wrong that their writings are still the best of Christian fantasy. By now we should have hundreds of works that are way better, and they’d be mostly honoured as those who started, not … all that it’s recommended when looking for Christian fantasy books.”

This got me thinking. As a Christian writer, I am obsessed with showing sinful man grappling with Ultimate Good. Evil is less interesting to me. Like, I pick up any Christian book, and yawn, it’s some lukewarm believer sinning again. You know what made Lewis and Tolkien stand out? They didn’t bother wallowing in the evil. Sauron has zero on-screen appearances. Instead, they grappled with Goodness, and man struggling to measure up. The Ring is a constant temptation, and arrayed against it are the Goodness of the elves, and Gandalf, and Gondor, and all the Good characters struggling to maintain their holiness in the face of corruption.

Goodness is treasured. It is something precious and desirable.

In Narnia, it’s each character coming to grips with Aslan. We’re not so much interested in what a pathetic waste of space Eustace is. We want to see him face Aslan and see how he changes. Each character is transformed by the end of each book by their confrontation with Good–they are either changed, or destroyed by it.

How many Christian books have been written since then that focus on man’s struggle with Goodness and Holiness and Righteousness? How many treasure goodness and constantly seek it out? I can’t think of any, and I’ve read quite a few. They kind of miss the point. Instead, they turn God into this cosmic battery that the hero channels in order to defeat the Bad Guys. Oh, and the hero wallows in evil. A lot. Like, in some books, the evil is pretty much front and center. This is no different from any book written by a non-believer.

Now, Mormons tend to get it right, and that’s why we have runaway authors like Sanderson and Meyers and Farland. They still write the stories of Man grappling with Good, although imperfectly. I think that’s why their books resonate so much.

For instance, Jeff Wheeler says in his Manifesto on Virtue:


When I was in college at San Jose State, I took Latin classes from Marianina Olcott. That is where I learned about the Roman concept of Virtus (pronounced “where-tuus”). It was a trait that the Romans respected, but it did not mean just virtue. It included other qualities too: prudentia (prudence), iustitia (justice), temperantia (self-control), and fortitudo (courage).

As I look around in the world today, I see that these traits are no longer honored and respected as they were in the past. Maybe that is why I love reading and why I have certain favorite movies I watch over and over again. You see, in my favorite books and films, the stories that grab me are about Virtus. All right, they can be cheesy sometimes. But I love that moment in Return of the Jedi when Luke throws down his light saber and tells the Emperor he failed to turn him to the Dark Side. That despite everything that will happen to his friends and (gulp) his “sister”, he surrenders and takes the blast of Force lightning full in the chest. That is Virtus.


I posted about this in a Christian writer’s group on social media. I received comments utterly dismissing my argument out of hand.

“Simple factor. [Narnia and LOTR] were not wrtten as “Christian” books. They were written for a secular audience and published by secular publishers. They were just writing great literature. They weren’t writing great “Christian” literature.

And both being classically trained lit professors probably didn’t hurt, especially considering the types of education they got. They probably wrote more during their teen years than most authors writing today have done in their entire lives”

Because Lewis and Tolkien were obviously gods among men and we can’t hope to achieve anything they did, or even study them to learn what they did. Yes. Very good lesson to draw from this.

I was also informed that stories that are dark and vile and end in death and despair have value. I have to wonder, to whom? English lit teachers? Fantasy readers seem to enjoy it with Game of Thrones, but I think that, even there, people still hope for some kind of a satisfying ending. There will probably never be one.

So, as a fellow Christian writer, I challenge every writer. Look at your books and see if you are glorifying good or evil. How many pages are devoted to villains and sin and perversion? How many pages are devoted to Goodness and Righteousness and Holiness? And I don’t mean in an ironic way. I mean in an honest, actual, doctrinal way, which shows what you know of Goodness?

Tolkien and Lewis changed the entire fantasy genre. Let’s change it again, writers. But we have to focus on grappling with the Good.

Sanctuary artwork blitz

Sanctuary launches on the 11th, so I’m doing a ton of art to show off what the book is like. This past week, I focused on the main characters and some excitement they get into. Next week, supporting cast and some of their shenanigans!

Sanctuary is Jayesh’s book, more or less a direct sequel to Bloodbound. Jayesh is still coping with being magically bound to a magical island, even if it does rocket his healing magic through the roof. As it turns out, he’s the only person in the world who can heal manticore venom stings and bites. But all he wants is for his girlfriend to not run away from him anymore, and to not be so crushingly lonely. This is him and his tiny dragon Suntala.

This is Kari Winters, Jayesh’s longtime crush. She’s a lightning super, dealing with grief from the murder of her boyfriend, and she’s kind of using Jayesh as an emotional life raft. Not exactly the healthiest of relationships, but the events of Sanctuary force her to confront her feelings and actions, and make a choice regarding Jayesh and loving him–or not.

“I’m just going to use my powers on the quetzalcoatl,” Jayesh said to the others. “Maybe diminish his pain.”

“If it attacks you, I’m zapping it dead,” said Kari, fists clenched at her sides. “I wish you wouldn’t do this, Jay. It’s a monster, just like the manticores.”

But it wasn’t like the manticores. Jayesh couldn’t explain the sense of grief and compassion inside him. He placed both hands on the silky feathers and drew on his healing shard.

He sensed the life in the great body, life mingled with magic. It reminded him of Suntala, but not quite. This creature was huge and blazing and alive, as if a shard had melted and run into its bloodstream. But that life was leaking from many wounds, both inside and outside. He found four hearts, one central one and three secondaries. A secondary heart had been shot through, and was draining the pressure of the rest. The creature’s entire magical being strained against the damage, trying to heal it.

Jayesh focused on that heart, first. “Come on, boy,” he whispered, drawing in the creature’s own magic. “Work with me.”

At first, the serpent’s magic blocked him out, like the tide running contrary to a swimmer’s path. But gradually, little by little, Jayesh’s healing magic soaked into the creature’s body and bone, redirecting its native magic. The damaged heart struggled, and the other hearts spasmed. Terror shot through the serpent and into Jayesh, potent as Kari’s lightning.

But Jayesh had enough empathy built into his healing shard to catch that fear and quiet it. “Shh,” he whispered, closing the holes in the wounded heart. “You’ll be all right. You won’t die, I don’t think. Come on, boy, you’re strong. Feel how the healing works? Work along with it.”

Rodion stepped up beside him and lifted the Mender’s Rod. Jayesh’s sense of the serpent’s wounds grew clearer, and it became easier to heal. “Thanks,” he said softly.

“No problem,” said Rodion, flicking his white hair out of his eyes.

After a moment, Kari joined them and laid her own hands on the feathery coil. All along the great body, wounds began to expel bullets and to close up. The serpent’s own magic surged in response to their assistance.

For the first time, the creature stirred, lifting its head out of hiding. For a moment it hung a few feet above the humans, watching them with its yellow eyes, the feathery crest standing upright, like a question mark. Then it relaxed and rested its chin on the coil they were touching. A third eyelid closed over the eyes like a gray film.

“I didn’t know he had eyelids,” Kari said. “Snakes don’t.”

“I notice that he only has the third,” Rodion said, “and not the first and second. Possibly because his flight ability demands it.”

Jayesh said nothing. He was in tune with the serpent’s magic, conducting their healing like a concert, and euphoria crept through him. His weariness, fear, and hunger fell away. All that remained was the ecstasy of healing, directing that energy, mending and regenerating. He was aware of his friends as beacons of light on either side of him, the serpent as an ocean of magic, and life, and potential. And nearest of all was Fith, watching, adding subtle hints to Jayesh’s magic, directing him in ways he wouldn’t have attempted.

He didn’t surface from that sea of bliss until the serpent slid its head forward and touched his forehead with its snout. “Little human,” it whispered, “stop before you die.”

Startled, Jayesh opened his eyes and gazed into the strange, narrow face of the serpent. The eyes were bright as jewels, the mouth turned down in a frown, then up in a smile. The tongue fluttered in and out through a hole in the lips. It brushed Jayesh’s forehead like the touch of an eyelash.

“My magic is overwhelming you, Bloodbound,” said the serpent. “Thank you for closing my wounds. I will manage the rest.” It turned its attention to Rodion and Kari. “I extend my thanks to you, as well. Because you showed me mercy, I lay no curse upon you, but a blessing. May Fith accept this offering.”


Sanctuary launches March 11th, preorder available here!

Bloganuary: What’s next on your reading list? Why, it’s Diana Wynne Jones

Today’s prompt asks, “What’s next on your reading list?”

From the Howl’s Moving Castle film by Studio Ghibli. Very pretty, but doesn’t follow the book.

I’ve been reading books aloud to the kids to start off the year. I know we should be reading deep, pithy educational stuff. So we started off with Howl’s Moving Castle, because that’s educational, right? It’s about a girl cursed to be an old woman, and she goes to the wicked Wizard Howl for help. Turns out Howl isn’t so wicked, and needs her help to break the spell that he’s under. The book is a hilarious readaloud, with chapter titles like, “In Which Howl Expresses His Feelings With Green Slime”.

Naturally, we had to read the sequel, Castle in the Air. This is a take on the Arabian Nights, where a humble carpet merchant buys a magic carpet and falls in love with the Sultan’s daughter, only to see her kidnapped by a djinn. Then he has to go on an adventure to rescue her, aided by a grouchy genie in a bottle, a dishonest soldier, and a black cat whose only power is to make herself huge. It has nothing to do with Howl until the 3/4ths mark, where it suddenly has everything to do with Howl.

Well, we finished that one, and I asked the kids what they wanted to hear next. They voted for Witch Week, also by Diana Wynne Jones, but it’s in the Chrestomanci series. In a world where witches are burned for being witches, a strict boarding school takes in witch-orphans. The story starts when a teacher gets a note saying, “Someone in class 6B is a witch.” And the shenanigans that ensue have had us laughing and laughing.

I never noticed how funny these books were until I read them aloud. Jones has a very dry sense of humor that only comes through when you’re trying to voice the crazy things these characters are saying or doing. Harry Potter is funnier when read aloud, too.

What will we read next? Probably more Diana Wynne Jones. I want to buy A Tale of Time City and surprise them with it, because they’ve never read that one.


None of the above links are affiliate links because I’m too lazy to set up affiliate links. You can safely click any of the above without giving me a penny.

Book review: Spicebringer by H.L. Burke

I’ve looked forward to reading Spice Bringer ever since Heidi mentioned she was working on it. I signed up as an advance reviewer just so I could get my grubby hands on the book a little sooner. Here’s what it’s about:

SpicebringerCoverSmall

A deadly disease. A vanishing remedy. A breathless journey.

All her life, Niya’s known she will die young from the fatal rasp. She survives only with the aid of vitrisar spice and a magical, curmudgeonly fire salamander named Alk. Then an ambitious princess burns down the vitrisar grove in an effort to steal Alk so she can claim her rightful throne. Joined by Jayesh, a disgraced monk, Niya and Alk must flee to the faraway Hidden Temple with the last vitrisar plant, or all who suffer from the rasp will perish.

But even as Niya’s frustration and banter with Jayesh deepen to affection, the rasp is stealing away her breath and life.

For a girl with limited time and a crippling quest, love may be more painful than death.

Amazon Link


As you can see, the premise is set up to be a tear-jerker, and the story pretty much is. But I still wanted to read it, because I wanted to see if the author could pull off a sad book. Most of her other books are pretty fluffy. But in the third Spellsmith and Carver book, she gave hints of being able to take characters deeper, so I wanted to see her do it.

While Spicebringer is still pretty light, there’s some surprising depth there. Niya has fantasy tuberculosis, and there’s no cure, except this magic spice that’s not supposed to be used for medicine at all. When the bad guys burn down her the little temple farm where she’s been living, she escapes with a fire salamander (he makes the seeds grow), and a seedling of a new strain of the spice that might give sick people an actual lifetime to survive. She’s trying to get to this other secret temple where the priests can grow the seedling in safety, as well as protect Alk, the bratty fire salamander.

Then there’s Jayesh, the love interest. His story is almost more interesting than Niya’s. He’s a priest of the Just God, which means that his entire life is ruled by dice rolls.  The priests of his order do nothing without consulting their god via the dice, which is kind of cool and over-powered. They’re also wicked martial artists. But Jayesh made a decision without consulting the dice, leading to a series of deaths. The dice no longer speak to him, and now he’s on a pilgrimage to try to atone for the deaths he caused.

Oh, and priests of his order aren’t allowed to marry. You can see where this is going.

So Niya and Jayesh wind up having this lovely doomed romance. He’s not allowed to marry and he’s been excommunicated from his god. She’s slowly dying of her disease. With conflict like that, the sparks start flying early on.

And there’s bad guys chasing them who want to kill the fire salamander and steal its heart for plot reasons.

The setting is kind of Fantasy India, which is fun and refreshing. Monkeys in the jungles, river rides, girls wearing robes and colored wraps over their hair, temples and foggy mountain passes.

Anyway, the book made me cry in the middle and at the end, even though it has a nominally happy ending. So if you’re the stoic type who doesn’t cry at books, this one might make you get a little bit of a lump in your throat. If you cry at books, expect to cry ugly tears at this one. But it’s such a good story. Especially if you like doomed romance stories.



 

Short dragon story

Here’s a short story about a dragon who is supposed to have a rider … and for some reason, years have gone by, and he’s never found them. This story kind of wants to be a book someday, so let me know if you think it ought to be expanded.

dragon-friend
Found on pinterest under the name “Dragon Friend”, if you know the artist, tell me so I can credit them

The dragon’s bond

by K.M. Carroll


“Haven’t you found your bond rider yet?” a dragon sneered.

The gray dragon tightened his wings against his sides and lowered his head in shame. “No … no, I haven’t.”

The other dragons laughed. A crowd of them waited as the humans poured a savory stew into huge bowls for each of them. Every dragon was a brilliant, sparkly red, or yellow, or green, or blue. They all had bond riders and proper names.

The gray had no rider, no name, and no color. All of them had begun as grays, when they had been sent out from the Shield, created by its power. But all of them had found the human the Shield had created them to bond with … except him.

Continue reading “Short dragon story”

Book tour: The Electronic Menagerie

Today I’m participating in a blog hop for a fantastic new book called the Electric Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder.

About the Book

The Electrical Menagerie, one-of-a-kind robotic roadshow, is bankrupt.

Sylvester Carthage, illusionist and engineer, has the eccentric imagination the Menagerie needs to succeed creatively — but none of the people skills. Fast-talking Arbrook Huxley, meanwhile, has all the savvy the Menagerie needs to succeed commercially — but none of the scruples.

To save their show, Carthage & Huxley risk everything in a royal talent competition, vying for the chance to perform for the Future Celestial Queen. In this stardust-and-spark-powered empire of floating islands and flying trains, a shot at fame and fortune means weathering the glamorous and cutthroat world of critics, high society, and rival magicians —but with real conspiracy lurking beneath tabloid controversy, there’s more at stake in this contest than the prize.

Behind the glittery haze of flash paper and mirrors, every competitor has something to hide… and it’s the lies Carthage & Huxley tell each other that may cost them everything.

Dazzles from start to finish. In Carthage & Huxley, Sherlock & Watson fans will find another dynamic duo whose ready wit and sizzling banter (and inevitable personality clashes) never fail to delight. You’ll be calling for an encore performance.” Gillian Bronte Adams, author of The Songkeeper Chronicles

“The stuff that fandoms are built on.” Kyle Robert Shultz, author of Beaumont & Beasley

Purchase on Amazon

About the Author

Mollie’s first job was with a major theme park, where she operated a roller coaster, fixed parade floats, and helped Scooby-Doo put on his head. Now, Mollie is a movie producer and the author of character-driven science fiction/fantasy novels for adults who never outgrew imagination. Her favorite things include Jesus, dinosaurs, and telling cinematic stories that blend glitter and grit.

Website — Twitter — Instagram


My review:

I’ve gotten to be kind of world-weary when it comes to reading fantasy. Between epic fantasy that wants to be Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones (or both), or urban fantasy that is one more Dresden send-up with wizard detectives … I’ve been kind of tired of the whole genre. So when the author mentioned the concept of this book, I perked up. Two guys with a train full of steampunky robots giving performances and trying to solve a mystery? Sign me up!
I got behind and haven’t finished the book as of this writing, but I’m hugely enjoying it. For one thing, if you didn’t know better, you’d think you picked up a Historical Fantasy. I adore historical fantasy. This one is set toward the end of the 1800s, I’d say. Top hats, ladies in fancy dresses and parasols, everybody travels by train.
But the worldbuilding is fascinating. In this world, it’s all islands floating in the sky above the ether sea. The trains travel between them on invisible sky rails. The Stars move and occasionally fall and create new islands. There’s some kind of warring political factions I haven’t gotten into yet.
Not to mention the conflicts between Huxley and Carthage, their opposing worldviews and motivations, and the way their backstories are creeping up to bite them. And all the other weird performers in this competition, all doing weird things. Oh yeah, and the Lipizzaner horses actually fly.
So yeah, I think by the time I’m done, this will be a five -star read. It’s different enough to feel fresh, yet it’s a conspiracy plot to murder the performers in this contests, which we’re comfortingly familiar with. Put them together, and you’ve got a smashing good read.

Giveaway Time!

Explore the world of The Electrical Menagerie by entering to win this Celestial Isles prize pack, which includes: “High Victorian” playing cards by luxury playing card company Theory11, handmade galaxy mug by DeVita Designs, Science & Engineering Themed Pocket Notebook Set by CognitiveSurplus, and a tin of Electrical Menagerie themed tea (over a $50 value)! (US only.)

>>>Entry-Form<<<

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, June 4th   

Tuesday, June 5th  

 Wednesday, June 6th 

Thursday, June 7th 

 Friday, June 8th 

 Saturday, June 9th

Monday, June 11th 

Book review: Ferromancer

I’m in a historical fantasy group on Facebook, and they have recommended reading books each month. As I was browsing the list of books, Ferromancer caught my eye. I’ve seen the title here and there, but this time it appealed to me. Plus, it was only a buck. If I didn’t like it, I hadn’t been ripped off too badly. As it turned out, I enjoyed it so much, I immediately bought book 2.

Here’s the official summary:

Solutions aren’t always black and white—sometimes they come in shades of iron gray.

Captain Bridget “Briar” Rose wants for nothing. Each day is a new adventure, living the life she loves, running cargo on the Ohio & Erie Canal. That is, until her cousin decides to sell the family boat to finance a new business venture. He wants to build locomotives for the railroad—the very industry that could put the entire canal system out of business.

Not one to give up without a fight, Briar does a little snooping into her cousin’s new business partner. When she gets a sneak peek at the locomotive plans, she suspects that the man is either a genius, or a ferromancer—one of the dreaded metal mages of Europe’s industrial revolution.

Determined to reveal her suspicions, Briar takes the plans and heads for the newspaper office in Columbus, stealing the family boat in the process. Kidnapping her cousin’s handsome business partner wasn’t part of the plan, but when he shows up, demanding the return of his property, she can’t let him go. After all, if Briar can prove that the railroad is using ferromancy, she could save more than her boat. She could save her way of life.


cyborg_by_elguaricho-d5n2i7c
Cyborg by elGuaricho

I thought, hey, canal boats vs. railroads? I’ll give it a shot. I like reading about that period of history, anyway.

My review:

The historical setting of early 1800s America, coupled with the mythos of the magical ferromancers, is somehow massively pleasing. I enjoyed this stroll along the Erie Canal, seeing the conflict between the boatmen and the up and coming railroads. At the same time, the ferromancers are understated, intriguing, and often terrifying.

I’m not sure, even now, if I like Grayson or not. At least he’s not like some of the psycho, abusive heroes urban fantasy often features. I think it’s the potential of what he will become, down the line, that worries me. But then, saving him from himself is the aim of the story, isn’t it?

Briar is a spunky heroine without being the man-hating feminist stereotype that so many heroines fall into. She brawls with her fists, because that’s the culture of the boatmen, but she also abides by the rules. For instance, women only brawl with women, and men only brawl with men. Whenever she tries to take on a man, she’s hopelessly overpowered (especially when the men are ferromancers or their constructs, because you can’t beat someone who is made of iron).

The worldbuilding is explained so very briefly that I got to the end, still scratching my head about what had happened. But much is teased about the next book, namely, that Briar will find out more about the mysterious world of ferromancy. So I grabbed it. One way to really hook me is with good worldbuilding, and this book delivers … in tantalizing trickles.

Book review: Lord of Dreams by C.J. Brightley

The first book our book club is tackling this year is Lord of Dreams by C.J. Brightley. The theme for this month was fairies, so we got this … strange … book. Here’s the summary:


lordofdreamscoverWhen a fairy king grants a human wish, there’s more at stake than dreams.

Claire Delaney has a good life, despite her adolescent angst. But she wants more. In a moment of frustration, she wishes to be “the hero.”

What she actually wants is to be the center of attention, but what she gets is a terrifying Fae king demanding that she rescue an imprisoned fairy, facing fantastical dangers and hardships she could not have imagined.

Yet the dreams–and the rescue–are only the beginning of her journey. She is at the center of the king’s audacious gamble to end the war that has raged in Faerie for half a century.


 

It’s not a bad premise, and when I started reading, I rejoiced at how well-written the book was. But then things got … strange. Here’s my review:


What a very strange book.

The first few chapters were very hard to read because of the whiplash of switching between the real world and the fairy world. And then we leap forward years in time, going from child Claire to Teen Claire to Adult Claire, with important but disconnected incidents happening at each point.

Once Adult Claire gets to the fairy world and starts trying to rescue the fairy king, things get slightly more coherent. She’s still ducking in and out of the dream world, but it’s always the same dream world, and that helps it not be so bonkers. The book uses that extreme, literal logic that I got used to with Diana Wynne Jones. Each word the king says means literally what it says. And every word that Claire says means literally what it says. Read carefully.

The story is emotionally satisfying, and Claire does, indeed, become the hero she wanted to be. Although maybe not quite in the way she expected.

If you’re a fan of the dreamlike, non-sequitur way that Alice in Wonderland reads, you’ll enjoy this book. Four stars.


 

For what it is, this was a good book. It portrayed the fairy world as suitably weird, which I don’t find in a lot of books. (Often times, the fairyworld is just a place where people with wings hang out with talking animals. I’m looking at you, Lego.)

LEGO_Elves_1488x838

But this kind of book drives me nuts. My brain is too logical. For instance, fairy blood is blue because it has no hemoglobin (no iron, ha ha). But that means … it can’t carry oxygen! Does that mean that they don’t breathe oxygen in the fairyworld? WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN.

matrix-air

That kind of thing frustrates me, and I don’t care much for Alice in Wonderland, either. So I think it’s mostly just my problem. Lots of people love that dreamscape kind of world. And the book does it very well. It just wasn’t a good fit for me.

Book review: Lawless by Janeen Ippolito

I’m excited to review Lawless on my blog today–and what do you know, it’s officially releasing today! What a coinikidink!

Here’s what it’s about:

LawlessCover

The salvation of humans and dragons lies within a convicted murderer.

Dragonshifter Kesia Ironfire has one goal—to redeem her past by serving the cruel dragon Pinnacle as a soldier in the dragon-human war.

Then a rogue mission to spy on a new airship explodes into sickening green smoke. The same mysterious green smoke that was present the night of Kesia’s crime. When her dragon overlords deny any involvement, she and her tactical partner Zephryn Nightstalker try to investigate–and are sentenced to death.

Still searching for answers, Kesia and Zephryn flee to the human military capital, where Captain Shance Windkeeper has been furloughed after the destruction of his airship. Eager to discover what–and who–blew up his vessel, he agrees to help Kesia and Zephryn infiltrate High Command. In exchange, Kesia must pretend to be his betrothed so Shance can escape an arranged marriage. If only she knew what ‘betrothed’ and ‘arranged marriage’ meant.

But human social customs are the least of her worries. Dark secrets surface as Kesia delves deeper–secrets that challenge the facts of her crime and undermine the war itself.

A steampunk fantasy adventure with a side of snark and quirky romance.


I was a tad skeptical when I started reading this book. I mean, sure, I like shapeshifters, especially dragon shifters. And it’s pretty fun when they get involved with airships, specifically, crashing them (thanks, Aranya!). But a few things struck me as odd, such as the way Kesia and Zephyrn have no words for love or romance. This is taken to almost a ludicrous extreme, such as when Shance starts crushing on Kesia and she doesn’t understand when he calls her “beautiful”.

But I kept going, and I’m glad I did. The dragon history has such a terrible twist in it that all those words were expunged from their vocabulary. Very fascinating. This is also a story about what happens when you let people have too much Science in with their magical creatures. It echoed some of the themes in Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega series, with the shapeshifter and their forms being tampered with. Whether magically or through science, it’s still a Bad Thing.

There are some steamy kissing scenes, but nothing more over the top than your average YA novel. The characters here are all adults and adult behavior is discussed, but nothing is shown. I would only recommend this book for mature teens and up.

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. Not all the secrets are revealed, so I expect this to be a trilogy at least, if not a longer series. It’ll be great fun as a boxed set. Four stars!

Grab it on Amazon!

23 book reviewed in a minute

I was reviewing the last book I read, and I thought, “You know, I should put that on my blog.”

Then I thought about the 23 books I’ve read this year and how I ought to review them on my blog, too. But who has time to read 23 book reviews?

So, I present to you, with apologies to Rinkworks, 23 BOOKS REVIEWED IN A MINUTE! That means very, very, very short reviews of each.

Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings by Lydia Sherrier

Lily: I’m a wizard.
Sebastian: I’m a witch.

They solve PROBLEMS with MAGIC.


The Firethorn Crown by Lea Doue

Twelve princesses are cursed to DANCE EVERY NIGHT until LILY agrees to MARRY her BLACKMAILER.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Revelations by Lydia Sherrier

Lily: Sebastian, are you keeping secrets?
Sebastian: Yes. Lily, are you keeping secrets?
Lily: Yes.



Fire Water by Domino Finn (book 5 of Black Magic Outlaw)

Cisco goes to the ELEMENTAL PLANE and there learns an INTERESTING FACT.


Dragonfriend by Marc Secchia

A girl named HUALIAMA is TOO TOUGH TO DIE because DRAGONS. Also GRANDION has secrets TOO.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Allies, by Lydia Sherrier

Lily and Sebastian don’t TRUST EACH OTHER because they’re a WIZARD and a WITCH with TERRIBLE HOME LIVES.


A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones

VIVIAN SMITH is FAMOUS for RUINING ALL OF TIME. See: nuclear war in WWII.


Spellsmith and Carver, by H.L. Burke

Auric: I hate my crazy dad.
Jericho: I love your crazy dad.
Auric: I hate you now, too.

CRAZY DAD runs away into the FEYLANDS.

Auric: I take it back.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Legends, by Lydia Sherrier

Lily and Sebastian go to ENGLAND because of MORGAN LAFEY.


Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

A bunch of KIDS go to MARS to escape ALIENS but find aliens ANYWAY.


Cities of Gold by Douglas Preston

A couple of guys try to retrace the path CORONADO took from Mexico up through New Mexico. The desert SUCKED back then and it STILL SUCKS.


Coiled, by H.L. Burke

Brothers: One of us turns into a snake when somebody looks at him. The other turns into a snake when nobody is looking.

Sisters: One of us has healing powers but gets uglier when she uses them. The other gets more beautiful the more cruel she is.

Now they have to GET MARRIED.


Excalibur by Tim Marquitz

Captain: We can fly this alien ship even though it was designed by BUGS

BUGS start KIDNAPPING PEOPLE

Captain: Let’s rescue these people.

BUGS HATCH OUT OF THEM

THE END


Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Anna is a WEREWOLF OMEGA which means she can CALM DOWN OTHER WOLVES. So when a WEREWOLF starts hearing VOICES she can CALM HIM except the voices are caused by an EVIL WITCH.


The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Valancy has a WEIRD NAME and a BORING LIFE. Then she finds out she has A YEAR TO LIVE. So she IS RUDE TO HER RELATIVES and GETS MARRIED.


The Tethered World by Heather L.L. FitzGerald

HOMESCHOOLERS go to a FANTASY WORLD that is really the GARDEN OF EDEN with ELVES.


Dragon Lyric by Bethany A. Jennings

Dragon: Wives are beautiful. And delicious.


Fabled, by Kara Jaynes

A girl can’t go to ARCHERY SCHOOL so she runs away and FIGHTS FAIRYTALES INSTEAD.


The Midnight Queen, by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Sophie is studying MAGICK even though it’s IMPROPER.

Gray: I am disgraced and accused of murder. Shall I teach you magick?

Sophie’s father: I have a plot to kill the king and pin it on Gray.

Sophie and Gray GO ON THE RUN.