Sunday, December 18, 2011

ST Review: Burying Brian by Steven Pirie

This review originally appeared in Shock Totem Issue 4

Rating: 5 out of 5

When I read Digging Up Donald four years ago, I stated that it was the best book I’d read in the last twenty years, and I meant it. I’d known Steven Pirie for a long time through writers’ groups and other online venues, and knew he possessed a wit and charm that few others could match, but never in my widest dreams could I have guessed that a book written by someone I considered an acquaintance would possibly stand alongside the likes of Douglas Adams, Clive Barker, and the rest of my all-time favorites.

And yet it did, so when Mr. Pirie announced that he had written a second offering that takes place in the same universe, I eagerly requested a copy for review. As an odd happenstance (at least for me), I never once questioned if Burying Brian, this aforementioned second book, would reach the same heights that Donald did.

My assumptions weren’t wrong.

Burying Brian brings us back to Mudcaster, that odd little town sitting snug in the English countryside, where the forces of good and evil perform their seemingly never-ending dance of power. This time God has thrown his all-powerful self into the ring as well, because for some reason known only to God (He does work in mysterious ways), He’s stricken with the urge to head back down to Earth and live amongst the mortals yet again.

The Mother and The Father, the old (very old) lords of balance in Mudcaster, are aging, with The Mother verging on entering Grandmotherhood, which itself carries a litany of “changes”. Because of this, it’s up to their daughter Maureen and her husband, a ne’er-do-well simpleton named Brian, to set things right and stop the demons of hell from bringing about humanity’s Final Judgment.

Brian, in particular, has a large part to play, the biggest of all. In Donald he was a rarely seen character, more used to be the butt of brilliantly sublime sexual innuendo. He has come full circle once Brian begins, however, and he’s chosen to go on a quest, to learn all he can about the failings of the human race so he can properly defend the sins of man. His journey takes him from the dart competition at his local pub to the bowels of hell. His trip is long, often times hilarious, and always affecting. Being a bit of a damp lettuce, Brian many times suffers through his trials only to emerge on the other side with his innocence intact. Because of this, I couldn’t help but think of the themes presented in Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut, in which humans are said to have been cursed by their big brains and even bigger ideas. As Brian vividly displays on every step of his journey, when you live in a world of such unnecessary complexity, sometimes the simple answers, those we overlook, are the ones we should be seeking out.

On the whole, Burying Brian doesn’t just approach brilliance but completely surpasses it. The prose Pirie uses is clever, never dull, and brings about a sense of poignancy that does what the best literature is supposed to do – make you think. The world he’s created is vast, with layers of religious mythology piled on top of everyday existence, creating a setting that is equal parts mundane and fantastic. Common folks and jobs (such as undertakers) are expanded upon, given far-reaching implications and meaning in the history of the universe. He also uses “funny physics” to help drive forward the plot – something as routine as the sequence of the bingo balls at the local old-folks’ home have dire consequences to the order of the cosmos – further illustrating the absurdity of the unnecessary complexity we humans must deal with on a daily basis.

In all, I can once more say that Steven Pirie has done it. Burying Brian is more than an equal to his last book; it’s an indispensable companion to it. To this reviewer’s eyes, Pirie is the greatest writer of his generation. Burying Brian will excite you, make you laugh, and cause you to question all those mores we all hold as law, be it in regards to religion, science, sexuality, or marriage. Burying Brian is the best book I’ve read in a long time, and this author needs to be placed in the pantheon of other greats, alongside the likes of Bradbury, Vonnegut, Adams, Pratchett, and Robbins. This novel is well worth anyone’s time, and I give it fifteen thousand enthusiastic thumbs up.

Purchase Burying Brian in Ebook format at:

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review: Jenny Pox by J.L. Bryan

Rating: 4.9 out of 5

The teen years. A time of awkwardness and confusion, of inner turmoil and the search for one’s self. Throw into this the pressures of school, the chaos of personal and family relations, and the conflicting messages when discovering of one’s own sexuality, and the stress multiplies. This is hard enough on a normal child, but imagine being someone who has a problem – a real problem such as a deformity, mental handicap, or social deficiency. Then the stress involved with simply growing up becomes that much more difficult.

In a lot of ways, this is the root of the conflict J.L. Bryan explores in his amazing horror yarn, Jenny Pox. He takes the pressures and cruelties of youth, adds in a dash of the supernatural, and what comes out on the other side is beautiful in its viciousness and odd innocence.

Jenny is a lonely child, growing up without a mother, with her alcoholic, depressed father the only loving adult in her life. Jenny is a troubled child, born with a striking physical deficiency – she can’t touch any living thing, lest they die a horrible death as a bane of sickness infuses their bodies…the Jenny pox. So she grows up in solitude, left to imagine what life would be like if she could only be like normal kids, playing, holding hands, kissing, knowing at least the first budding flutter of love.

Her life is spent avoiding people at all costs, and she at all times wears clothes that cover up the majority of her body – including gloves for her hands – that make her an object of ridicule. And when, as a younger child, she has a run-in with the ironically named Ashleigh Goodling, the daughter of the local preacher and a girl who will grow up to be her main foil, the resulting confrontation leads to her being an object of ridicule and fear.

For her part, Ashleigh is the mirror image of Jenny. Strong where Jenny is weak, outgoing where Jenny is introverted, Ashleigh embodies everything Jenny sometimes wishes she could be. Once they reach high school, Ashleigh becomes (of course) the head cheerleader, leader of the student body, and mouthpiece for abstinence and virtue. And this is where the not-so-subtle brilliance of the story lies, for though Ashleigh seems to embody all of the cherished Christian values, her purity is purely surface-level; a disguise to hide her quest for power and domination.

It seems Ashleigh has a “special talent” just as Jenny does – the ability to make people love her. As does Ashleigh’s boyfriend Seth, who can heal most any wound, superficial or mortal. It is in Seth that Jenny eventually finds a like-minded soul, and when she is able to get him out of Ashleigh’s scope of influence, she is allowed to grow as a character, to experience the exhilaration of physical contact and the joy of finally belonging.

The novel is set up much like Stephen King’s Carrie, with the cruel school children – and the rest of the townsfolk – pushing Jenny’s buttons until the final confrontation, when Jenny pretty much loses her mind. The carnage that follows is disturbing yet understandable, not the least of which reason being that Bryan successfully entrenches us in Jenny’s brain, allows us to feel her longing, pain, happiness, and confusion. So when she flips the switch and the story takes a turn down the path of ultimate darkness, though we scream out, no, don’t do that, we completely get why the poor girl goes down the path she does.

Jenny is the perfect metaphor for the everyday lost soul. Even those of us who were in places of popularity in our youths can relate to her much more than the malevolent Ashleigh. Yet this is not the only metaphorical device the author uses. His portrayal of Christian morality as a means of control and subterfuge is inspired; in a way, he’s saying that experimenting while growing up is natural, and that placing false restrictions on ourselves is done not by the ones experiencing the growth, but those wishing to capitalize on the confusion of youth, a way of building an army of likeminded individuals sympathetic with a certain cause, complete with all the prejudices, hatred, and influence that have been passed down through generations. Given the state of our culture today, this is downright frightening.

I think this aspect of the plot may be misconstrued by readers. In presenting us with the iniquity of fanatic belief, Bryan isn’t saying Christianity in itself is bad, but that the way the doctrine is warped and beaten into the heads of our children is dangerous. As a reader I appreciated the message, as a human I wished more people would take a deeper look and understand that diversity and individuality are what drives culture to accomplish great things.

Jenny Pox takes all the tropes of young adult fiction, tosses them in a pot, shakes them up, and then reorganizes them into something meaningful, a novel written for adults using children to explore the deeper reasoning behind our own intolerance. The kids are kids, acting in a way we all did in our youths, not presented as ideals but real people. You will find no damsels in distress here, no characters that derive their meaning from the opinions of the ones they’re infatuated with. Abusive relationships aren’t puffed up as being more than what they are, each character is in charge of their own self-discovery, and misogyny isn’t glorified. Even Jenny, in her weakest state, is a strong individual, one we all can sympathize and grow along with. Even the mystical aspects at the end of the book that set up the rest of the series, and the somewhat clunky execution of the final confrontation (the only reason this book didn’t get a perfect score) don’t take away from this.

Pick up this book. Read it. Enjoy it. Think on it. It’s a great example of horror with heart, of a story that goes against the norm and uses the fantastic to heighten real events, real emotions, real experiences. Yes, I will say that I adore J.L. Bryan’s writing. This is the second book of his that I’ve read, and it seems with each experience, my enjoyment and appreciation for his style and message only grows along with the dazzling characters he’s created. He’s a writer to watch out for, to dive into, to explore.

This certainly won’t be the last book of his I’ll read, and it shouldn’t be for you, either.

Purchase Jenny Pox in ebook format at the following outlets:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: The Haunted E-Book by J.L. Bryan

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

It’s a great feeling when you come across an idea you haven’t seen before, isn’t it? I mean, we’ve all read stories of haunted houses, haunted cars, even haunted people…but a haunted ebook? I mean, think about it for a second—even the term didn’t exist ten years or so ago.

Which makes the appropriately-titled The Haunted E-Book, written by J.L. Bryan of Jenny Pox fame, the first of its kind. This is a primacy that all writers yearn for but very few achieve.

On to the story.

Dee is a librarian in rural Georgia, a broken woman stuck in a place she doesn’t want to be simply because she wants to be close to the grave of her deceased friend Lilah. She spends her time reading her Kindle while trying to forget the fact her life’s gone nowhere in a hurry. Her loser townie boyfriend treats her like she isn’t there, which in fact reflects Dee’s view of herself. She’s a shell of a woman, a ghost wafting through the real world, hardly ever seen.

Strange things begin happening right away, when she downloads a book titled—yup—The Haunted E-Book. The book takes over her entire library of digital books, even inserting itself into other stories when she tries to read something different.

And this is where things get very, very interesting, because what we have here is a story within a story…within a story. Dee reads about Madison, who’s reading about Parker, who’s reading about Elaine. And in each incarnation, the person they’re reading about is reading a book called the same thing, only with the individual story being different. It sounds confusing, like looking into two mirrors at the same time and seeing the same image projected over and over again into infinity, but in fact, with the way Bryan constructed the story, it’s quite easy to follow.

The book follows the same pattern with every reader—so-and-so begins to be haunted by a mysterious, shadowy figure with letters stamped on his flesh, and who carries an iron composite stick with which he kills his victims. And how do you fall victim to this sadistic ghost?

Why, you stop reading.

Dee is thrust into the lives of the people she reads about, and her life at home falls apart. Then, following a familiar pattern with tales of hauntings, she is sent on a mission to discover the history behind the book, actually meets a few of the characters she’s read about (who turn out to be people just as real as her), and begins a daring chase in hopes of putting an end to the bad guy once and for all. In a way, it’s the story of one woman coming to grips with who she is, realizing her worth to both herself and the ones who loved her. And since this is horror, this epiphany comes when her life hangs precariously by a thread.

While the last third of The Haunted E-Book does follow a familiar pattern, the hows and whys of the plot make it refreshing. The evil presence behind the haunting is sinister in a subversive way, a “man” whose every action is made out of love—or at least his own twisted definition of it. He’s creepy and evocative of horror tales past, and his backstory, yet another book-within-a-book, is fascinating, as is the description of how he comes to haunt the books in the first place.

In all, I can heartily recommend The Haunted E-Book to anyone who enjoys reading an original, inventive horror yarn, complete with dismemberment, terror, and visceral thrills. It’s a hellride, the journey of one woman who wishes to be reborn while experiencing the most dreadful events of her lifetime. It will chew you up and spit you out, and by the time you read the final page, you’ll be left wondering if the words The End are truthful…or if it’s yet another vehicle of malevolence to lull us into a false sense of security.

Purchase The Haunted E-Book in, ahem, ebook format at the following retailers:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: A Dance of Death (Shadowdance Book III) by David Dalglish

Rating: 5 out of 5

I love David Dalglish’s books. There, I said it. Everything he’s put out I’ve devoured and raved about. From Weight of Blood, the introduction to his Half-Orcs series, to his new Paladins adventures, each story builds upon the next, further enhancing and enriching the world he’s created and presenting new conspiracies, enemies, and themes.

Now we come to A Dance of Death, the climactic work of the Shadowdance series – which, strangely enough, are really stand-alone novels masquerading as a series. And I will now say, as I seem to after virtually every Dalglish book, that he’s once more raised the bar, making this reviewer swoon, sway, and cheer with each swing of the sword (or thrust of the dagger).

This time around, we find Haern, fully entrenched in his role as King’s Watcher, being led out of Velderan by a copycat killer in the town of Angelport, miles away from home. This mimic kills seemingly indiscriminately, leaving behind Haern’s old calling card, the bloody, traced eye, one he hasn’t used in years.

Haern, along with Alyssa and Zusa, head south. There are other bad things going on in Angelport – a fight with the elves over the woodlands, the proliferation of a new, powerful drug that is spreading through the streets, and the infighting between the merchant lords, who own the boats, and the lord of the land, who is slowly losing control of everything. Into this mix is thrown the Wraith, Haern’s much-too-talented, unwanted protégé, which pitches everything into a great big smorgasbord of murder, conspiracy, deceit, and political intrigue that brings the city to the brink of war – both with the elves and amongst themselves.

For the first time, Dalglish introduces a plot that is truly mysterious and isn’t concluded until the very end. While all of his books possess tremendous character development – and are usually carried by it – this one actually uses the plot itself, the mystery, to drive the story forward, using the previously stated character development to enhance the story, making the characters come to even more life than they already are. We understand Alyssa’s doubt, Zusa’s anger, Haern’s guilt, because each step of the way we’re shown why they feel what they’re feeling.

And they aren’t the only characters spotlighted here. We’re also reintroduced to Torgar, from way back in book one, who serves as the master of the guard for the Keenans, the Trifect members who reside in Angelport. We also get further insight into Madelyn Keenan’s character, who, let’s just say, is one of my favorites in the whole book, maybe the whole series. We also get inside the head of the Wraith, this mirror of a creation whose goals and actions don’t quite match up.

This is a book filled – and I mean filled – with meaning and thematic exploration. Everything from drug trafficking to environmental preservation to the question of how far is too far when it comes to the use of violence in making the world a better place are explored. Haern, for his part, is left to question his own motivations, to doubt his every action. He’s presented with a man much like himself, one that kills ostensibly at random, with no thought given to whether his victims deserve their fate or not. All of which leads Haern to wonder, what makes me so much better than him?

Because of this fact, there are no true heroes in A Dance of Death. What we cheer for when we read are incomplete people – in other words, fantasy representations of actual, real people experiencing the type of trauma – gang violence, drug dealers, vigilantism – that are found in any city across the world. All of which makes me repeat something I’ve said many times before: David Dalglish is not a fantasy author. He’s an author, period; one whose words would mean just as much if they were set in Chicago or Paris or Los Angeles as they do in Velderan…or Angelport.

The bottom line is this: A Dance of Death is a great, great read, a much more than worthy offering to close out a fantastic series. The characters are great, the story even better, and it has enough twists to make your head spin. We even get to see elves portrayed being not-so-elflike – you know wise and mystical and peaceful and all that – which I absolutely loved. There is heartbreak and anger, betrayal and gut-wrenching decisions, as well as some rather inspired deaths. I heartily recommend it, as I would all of the author’s books, and can honestly say I hope he gives us more of Haern’s story in the future, because there has to be more to tell.

Yeah, this is pretty much the perfect novel. You won’t be disappointed. And if you are, that’s on you, not the work.

If you want to read this fantastic work for yourself, buy them in Ebook format at the following sellers:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review: Suspense (Spencer Nye Trilogy Book 1) by Jason Letts

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

In certain ways, Facebook has become an integral part of my life. I spend way too much time on it, conversing with friends, making connections, sometimes simply passing the time. It’s become a useful tool, but also a slightly frightening one. If you were to think about how connected everyone is through these bits of data flowing invisibly all around us, it would be very easy to come up with a nightmare scenario where we not only use programs like this as a tool, but they become necessary to continue our way of life, a world where without social networking, the whole of society would be lost.

Jason Letts took this scenario, fleshed it out, and in a flash of unique and original storytelling created Suspense, the first book in his Spencer Nye Trilogy. To say I was impressed with what he came up with would be a grand understatement.

Suspense centers around the exploits of the girl for whom the series is named, Spencer Nye herself. She is a gritty character, full of anger and distrust. She is also a diehard, one who will do anything – even kill – to protect and defend the image and life of her Idol.

What is this all about, you ask? Diehards? Idols? Well it seems that in Letts’s brilliant new universe, the general world populace uses a program called Connect – the most powerful social media ever invented, accessed through nodes implanted into peoples’ skulls – to, well, keep themselves connected. They float through life only half-existing in the real world, spending the rest of the time immersed in the data that flashes in front of their eyes, reading up on the latest trends, what their friends are up to, or just perusing. I found it to be a quite disturbing visual the first time I read a scene depicting this, representative of a world where the flesh is at times looked at as a hindrance.

A good chunk of society also uses Connect to keep up with their Idols – basically folks who’ve gained so much popularity, so many followers, that they’ve become, in a certain sense, godlike. All six of the Idols live in a fortress on a hidden tropical island, to keep them safe. And the animosity between the diehards for each of them is frightening. They’re constantly at war, constantly killing each other, with the end game being to elevate their Idol to an even higher level. It’s a scary thought.

The specifics of the society the author created are interesting, even beyond the whole social networking angle. There is no more industry, as anything anyone would ever need is created simply by pressing a button on something called a molecular synthesizer. There is no more crime – other than diehard-on-diehard violence – as why in the world would you have to steal if it everyone had everything they wanted and money no longer existed? And people get around by using terminals that transport them from place to place in the blink of an eye, simply by pushing numbers into a keypad.

In a lot of ways you could look at this and think, that’s not so bad. On the surface, this society is bordering on a utopia, but with the loss of personal freedom that comes with everyone knowing what’s on your mind at all times, and the amount of fanaticism the Idols create, it steers in the opposite direction and becomes pure dystopia. With a lack of purpose, a lack of direction, it leads folks to act irrationally, to search for meaning in a world that, in truth, means absolutely nothing.

The story itself is an adventure, as Spencer and her friends, a cyborg named Jetta and a programmer named Patch, seemingly uncover a plan to take out the Idols – including theirs, the actor Cleary Mintz. This leads to a great many action sequences and a rather ingenious plan, thought up by the three friends, to turn Spencer, herself, into an Idol and fix the situation from the inside.

What follows is a great amount of intrigue and a further exploration into how this whole world started in the first place. There is mystery, paranoia, and a hint that the direction society has taken was orchestrated by something wholly not of this world. And in the middle of all this is Spencer, the unstable teenager whose only desire has ever been for her life to have meaning.

This is a very good book, folks. Suspense is resourceful and technical, a mix of science fiction and dystopian fiction with a truly original premise. Though written for a young adult crowd, it’s definitely been created for an older audience. There are scenes of violence, confusion, and at one point a rather inspired scenario of sexual exploration while not in one’s own body, experiencing the sensations from the opposite viewpoint. The book is obviously not perfect – what book is? – but it’s more than worthy of your time and energy. In fact, I’ll go a step further to say this particular work of fiction may be important, as well. It allows us to look at our own actions, how much time we spend on the internet “connecting” with people while ignoring those who are standing right beside us, and urges us to find balance.

It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, and the author shows us what might happen if we fall off. Brilliant.

Purchase Suspense in Ebook format from the following sellers:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: Fourth Reich Rising (Jack Shepherd Mystery Thrillers) by Tom Schwartz

Rating: 1.3 out of 5

I have struggled with writing this review for a few weeks now. I know what I want to say, but the hard part is figuring out how to say it in the most gentle way possible.

Fourth Reich Rising by Tom Schwartz is a very strange book. It starts out interestingly enough – with a prologue introducing us to Eric Goering, son of Hermann Goering, and offering a very haunting statement on the purpose of the Third Reich and plans put in place by those who’d constructed it to reform the idea if ever the Nazis lost control of the power they’d built. It was this prologue that pulled me in and made me want to review the book.

However, after this prologue, everything goes downhill. What we have here isn’t a novel, but an outline for a whole series of novels.

The story goes something like this: The children of all the former Nazi leaders and their remaining families come together, led by Erich, to facilitate the recreation of the Reich. The history is explained – in mind-numbing detail – of how they go about this, from college all the way up until present day. Then there is a cruise ship, upon which are mystery writer Jack Shepherd and his friends. The ingenious plan by the new Reich is to smuggle a nuclear warhead from the Ukraine, stow it away aboard the cruise vessel, detonate the bomb in New York Harbor, and all the while create enough “chatter” to blame the whole shebang on Iran and the Saudis, then organize all the white supremacists in the US and bring the government down.

Now this is all well and good, and as outrageous as it sounds, I’ve read pretty entertaining books that have presented much less believable scenarios. But the writing is so robotic and tedious, it is, like I said, an outline more than a novel. Even the “fun” scenes involving Shepherd and company come across as completely emotionless. Here’s an example passage from the text, so you can see what I mean:

Tonight they all ordered lobster. These were one-and-a-half pound Maine lobsters with drawn butter and crab stuffing. Jack said, “People, we can’t have lobster without wine,” and he signaled the wine steward. “Three bottles of Schwartenkatz Rhine, please.” As usual, the service was great and the wine went down easily. When it came time for dessert, no one was interested until Judi spotted baked Alaska on one of the tables next to them.

“I can't take any more of this. I’ll have to buy a new wardrobe,” exclaimed Bob, but he ate his entire dessert anyway.

And this is seriously one of the more exciting segments. The entire book reads this way, only often time even more stilted.

Another major gripe – the supposed main character is, of course, Jack Shepherd, mystery writer. Hell, his name’s on the subtitle. Two problems with this. #1, he’s flat as unleavened bread. (But then again, all the characters are, so why should he be any different.) #2, he appears in literally one-third of the book, at most. That’s right, most of the story deals with the reformation of the Reich, the plans of the Reich, how the Reich kill people, how they spread fear in rather simplistic ways, and so on. It becomes more than tedious. At certain points I started wishing I was reading my son’s accounting textbook instead.

With all the being said, the reason I’ve waited so long to write a review is that I appreciate Tom Schwartz’s point of view. Especially toward the end, when all these outlandish and excruciatingly boring plot points come together, the author is able to write more freely, to illustrate his rather beautiful perspective of the world to us in a touching, albeit slightly naïve-sounding way. I appreciated that, and thought that maybe the book could be saved if he could only hold on to that tone and stretch it out a little longer. But no, soon we’re back with the Reich as they try to escape the authorities after Shepherd helps thwart their plans (in possibly the most ridiculously overstated part of the book.)

There is also the strange tendency the author has to start just about half his chapters in present tense, introduce a huge block of dialogue, and then – bam! – the rest of the chapter is in past tense. It’s seriously one of the most odd and baffling conventions I’ve ever seen, in any type of literature.

I could go on, but I’m going to stop here. I don’t want to keep piling it on, which I feel like I’m about to do. All I have to say about Fourth Reich Rising is this: Tom Schwartz is a man with a lot of good to give the world, a lot of ideas about community and nationalism and religion and loving your brother. He’s defended our country in the military and is an upstanding, thoughtful individual.

He just can’t write. At least not yet.

Agree with me? Disagree? Buy the ebook if you wish, and let me know:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Where on earth has the Journal gone?

Come tomorrow, it will have been exactly one month since I've posted a review on this site. Oh, the horror! I'm here to inform you that I've not left you stranded, my few readers. Rather, I've simply been quite busy.

On January 5th, 2012, I will be releasing the 3rd installment of The Rift, "Death Springs Eternal." In other words, it's been crunch time over in these parts. The beginning of the book stifled me a bit, as I wanted to take it in a bit of a different direction from the previous book, "Dead of Winter." Because of this, my numerous other projects have taken a backseat - reviewing being one of them.

This does not mean to say that I have stopped reading. I haven't. Not in the slightest. In fact, there are five - count 'em, five - books that I still need to craft a review for. I've been pushing them back, as reviews take me usually about an hour or so to write and I've been paranoid about not meeting my deadline. However, I seem to be back on track, so the next review will appear this coming Wednesday, October 26th. The books to be reviewed go as follows:

Fourth Reich Rising by Tom Schwartz
Suspense by Jason Letts
Dance of Death by David Dalglish
The Haunted Ebook by J.L. Bryan
Jenny Pox by J.L. Bryan

Also, in case anyone hasn't noticed, I've removed the submissions page from this site. That's right, I'm no longer accepting submissions. At all. I'll take suggestions, but from now on I will be reading what I want to read. I think part of the reason I've lost a little bit of interest in the reviews is that there have been quite a few books I've started, and then stopped reading after a few pages because they weren't very well written or just didn't interest me. What's the solution? Why, to read what interests me, of course! So that's the way it'll be from now on.

So, that's it for today. Take care all, and see you this Wednesday.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Review: Cadman's Gambit (Shader Book I) by D.P. Prior

Rating: 5 out of 5

Oh, how much I love the melding of genres. To mix and match different aspects of specific literary tropes and use them to tell a truly original and captivating tale can be a wonderful thing to experience, when executed correctly. It then becomes nothing but a story, allowing the reader to concentrate on the strength of the tale being told rather than if they followed all the requisite “rules” ascribed to said genre – ala, in the case of fantasy, the use of magic, mystical beasts, and world-building.

This all brings us to Cadman’s Gambit: Shader Book I by D.P. Prior, a novel that now holds a place in my heart as the most perfect introductory novel to a series I’ve ever read, surpassing the previous champion, The Gunslinger.

In truth, there are quite a few similarities between Prior’s book and the seminal work of King. We follow a gruff, old, and cranky warrior (Roland and Shader), travel along a path in search of an object of untold power (the Rose and the statue of Eingana), and there are remnants of an advanced, ancient civilization lurking beneath the surface of both worlds.

This is where the comparison ends, however. While The Dark Tower chronicles the journey of a single man and his quest for absolution, in Shader we’re presented with a much larger, more universal plight – the elevation of man into a place of honor within the universe. It’s a rather lofty goal that Prior has saddled himself with, and one he’s amazingly able to pull off.

In Cadman’s Gambit we’re introduced, in different flashbacks and wild, swashbuckling tales, to the main character, Deacon Shader. But in almost every way, Shader is overshadowed by the complexity, originality, and turmoil of the world he exists in. This is a version of Earth that has gone far beyond us – 900 years since the end of “civilization as we know it”, pretty much – and there are mystical, as well as scientific, wonders drifting about. There are individuals who have lived for centuries, galactic warlords on the quest for universal domination, and many questions pertaining to the nature of existence, including time, itself. Religion is widely discussed, and even ridiculed, in fact becoming the one uniting and divisive cog in the machine, echoing that fact that though society as we know it has moved on, humans remain humans, whether they ascribe to a Christian derivative, a pagan understanding, immerse themselves in Platonic doctrine, or a combination of all three.

But more than anything else, Cadman’s Gambit is the story of man’s quest for immortality. Every major character either desires it – in spirituality or actuality – or already has tasted a hint of it. It is one of the saddest theological plotlines I’ve come across, and each key player is, in their own way, selfish to a fault. In an existence where death is all around them, in the form of plague or warfare or strange, bio-engineered beasts, rather than trying to survive, they attempt to cheat death.

Which is why Deacon Shader, the warrior monk (and how great of a contradiction is that?), means so much to the story. He is flawed, cranky, violent, and stubborn, a man set in his ways who wants to change but can’t. Because of this, he reflects each and every person I’ve ever known…though he’s way cooler, and stronger, than the average man. Let’s just call him an “ideal human,” which is a fantastic description because of how imperfect he is. Prior has definitely created a conundrum of a story here, and he couldn’t have chosen a better figurehead to anchor it.

The mystery in the tale abounds. What’s up with the hidden, underground tunnels? What’s a “technocracy?” Why do so many people, when exposed to the deity-like entities (or are they?) that save the world from itself, end up living pretty much forever? He also has the courage to introduce magic, only to pull back and suggest, in a brilliant piece of storytelling, that there’s no such thing as magic at all. Just like the rest of the story, it’s a grand negation, and one that can make a reader’s head spin…in a good way, of course.

There is more than theory and world-building at work here. There is actual emotion and real, honest-to-goodness human relationships. Shader’s love for the girl he can’t have, his understudy’s obsession with the same, a dwarf named Shadrach’s fixation on the woman who would be his mother, the religious elite’s love of Ain, their godhead, or Dr. Cadman’s (the main antagonist) love of, well, himself. (I don’t want to spoil anything here, but let’s just say Cadman is a near-flawless villain. You’ll love him.)

The fight scenes in this book are extremely well executed, even if they may be few and far between. Just like everything else at work here, this is a contradiction, for the action acts as a break in the dialogue and philosophic musings instead of the other way around, which is usually the case. Also, there are little Easter eggs thrown in for those of us who still exist in the 21st century, as some of the “immortal” characters reflect upon events and locales from their past, letting we the readers know that, yes, this strange land was once not only very much like ours, but was ours.

Oh, and I’d be remiss to say that, for the first time ever, the map at the beginning of the book was not only well-made, but necessary to the plot! Go figure. I’ve always been one to never look at them, thinking them superfluous. Not here, my friends. No, if it weren’t for that map, I would’ve been lost.

In fact, I can say in all honesty that the only thing I think might hold this novel back is the fact it’s almost too smart for its own good. The language is dense, the plot sometimes convoluted. You really have to read each and every word, to take in each minute detail presented, to truly understand what you’re reading. I think there may be some folks who may not appreciate it, though there’s nothing wrong with that.

I, on the other hand, loved it. Cadman’s Gambit is a work of pure intellect, taking the best facets of fantasy, science fiction, and philosophy, and mixing it all together into a genus all its own. It's surprisingly humorous in parts, and the Kantian undertones of consciousness as it relates to time and space resounded with me greatly. I couldn’t put it down, though I took my time with it, wanting to bathe myself in every word, every turn of a phrase.

Yup, that’s right. My Year’s Best list just had a new book jump to the top. D.P. Prior’s book is that good. He has a lot to say, and one hell of a story to tell. In my opinion, you should take him up on that journey. Now.

Plot - 10

Characters - 10

Voice - 10

Execution - 10

Personal Enjoyment – 10

Overall – 50/50 (5.0/5)

Purchase Cadman's Gambit in Ebook format at:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


And we have a winner!

There were over 450 entrants into the contest, so there was some tough competition. So congratulations goes out to...


Thank you to all of the blogs who participated! It was a fantastic experience for myself, and with the fantastic reception this book has received, things are only looking up from here!

A huge thanks goes out to Kismet Book Touring for organizing this whole shebang. You do great work ladies!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ST Review: The Zombie Feed edited by Jason Sizemore

(Note from the Journal: This review initially appeared on - sans ratings)

4.1 out of 5

I love me a good zombie tale. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite movie of all time, Romero is a god to me, and my first book is about those meandering, rotting corpses. So when I was sent The Zombie Feed, the new compilation put out by Apex Publications and edited by Jason Sizemore, for review, I was more than pumped to dive right in.

Inside this volume are 17 tales of zombies in all of their various forms. At first I expected a grouping of run-of-the-mill apocalyptic, undead stories. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered how different the collection is, with how many various directions the authors took what very often are clichéd tropes and plot devices.

In order to adequately break down this fantastic collection, let’s look at The Zombie Feed story by story.

Not Dead by B.J. Burrow: A woman wakes up on her deathbed, questioning if she’s still alive. A touching story of the nature of faith and what really defines humanity. (5/5)

Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs by Monica Valentinelli: An original, if somewhat clunky, take on the origins of the outbreak and the privileged nature of the wealthy. It could’ve been spectacular given the original premise the author came up with, but it falls flat. A little too “Ah, gotcha!” for my taste. (3/5)

Cold Comfort by Nathaniel Tapley: What is this? A zombie tale without a true zombie? A fantastic story dealing with the undead that only exist in the narrator’s head, as a Russian mortician whose wife is cheating on him communes with his recently-departed patients. Ironically enough, in this particular tale it isn’t the dead who should be considered zombies. (5/5)

The Final December Day by Lee Thompson: This one follows more along the lines of a traditional zombie tale. A lone cop, searching for his long-lost partner on his last day on earth, runs across a young photographer. An interesting take on the apocalypse where the zombies are simply drug-addicted, insane humans, and aliens roam the earth. I enjoyed the message, but it fell a little short. This is one short story that begged to be longer. (4/5)

Broken Bough by Daniel I. Russell: A particularly heartbreaking tale of the end of the world, told from the point of view of a young family of three struggling with the ultimate decision. Truly sad, it makes you wonder what you might do should the unthinkable happen. Would you be able to take the actions necessary? Haunting. (5/5)

The Sickness Unto Death by Brandon Alspaugh: A somewhat convoluted tale of the recently departed rising up, remembering their pasts and able to act as human, though they’re no longer living. A bit confusing, and written in a way that I think might seem like the author’s trying to “put one over” on the reader. I’m all for an original, inventive story, but this one seemed too clever for its own good. (2/5)

A Shepherd in the Valley by Maggie Slater: Now this one was creepy. A man, all alone and living in an old airport, has figured out a way to “tame” the dead. A heartening examination of a parent’s love and the sacrifices one must make in the face of absolute terror. (5/5)

Twenty-Three Second Anomaly by Ray Wallace: Eh, I could give or take this one. The story of human experimentation and how exact science can be. Interesting, but the punch isn’t punchy enough and the emotions seems forced. Not bad, but could be better. (3/5)

The Last Generation by Joe Nazare: Another very interesting and not-quite-zombie story. All people have fallen over and entered a state of non-death, and only a few wake up, albeit minus their memories and sense of self. An inventive story, but lacking in some important information (such as how do they remember pop culture references and not their names or pasts) that could have made the story much more affecting. Decent nonetheless. (4/5)

Bitten by Eugene Johnson: One of the few standard zombie tales in the whole collection. A very short story of a bunch of folks trying to protect a house at the end of the world. It is what you’d expect. (3/5)

Lifeboat by Simon McCaffery: A very entertaining story of a group of people surviving the apocalypse by sailing the ocean on a cruise ship. Intriguing and imaginative, the narrative takes twists and turns I never expected, coming out at the end in an intense, hell-bent-for-leather climax. One of the best in the bunch. (5/5)

Rabid Raccoons by Kristen Dearborn: Now this is what I call taking a genre and flipping it on its head. A teen girl does her friend wrong, only to be assailed (possibly mystically) by zombie raccoons. A stupendous job of telling a story from the viewpoint of a young adult, this tale captures the sense of seclusion and fear beautifully. Great story. (5/5)

Zombies on the Moon by Andrew Clark Porter: Another short tale, and while the imagery of a moon cluttered with zombies has stuck with me since I’ve read it, this is another example of a story that could use some fleshing out to be perfect. (4/5)

The Fare by Lucian Soulban: The absolute best story of the bunch. A lonely man in the aftermath of the world’s end hires a mysterious cabbie to help him obtain closure for his past sins. A tremendous study of the human condition, of how guilt can guide our actions after a traumatic event, no matter if we were in the right or not. (5/5)

What’s Next? by Elaine Blose: This is the only story that I don’t think belongs in this collection. It wants to be campy, describing a world where aliens bring about the zombie apocalypse, only to have monster after monster appear in their wake, but it comes off as amateurish. The rest of the stories in this collection are so strong and insightful, it seems entirely out of place. (2/5)

Goddamn Electric by K. Allen Wood: Another ingenious story, imagining a “different” sort of zombie, when the skies open up during an apocalyptic storm and fry everyone who wasn’t smart enough to find shelter. High on anxiety and even (surprisingly) emotion, this story follows an old man who’s lived a long life and isn’t quite ready to give it up. (5/5)

Hipsters in Love by Danger Slater: This is the oddest story of the bunch. I absolutely hated it until I was a couple pages in, when I went back to the beginning and re-read the title. This is a complete farce of a tale, a satire poking fun at a certain segment of our modern culture, complete with kids and their ironic t-shirts worrying about obtaining some Pabst Blue Ribbon in the face of the undead. A highly funny romp, it’s the perfect choice to end this anthology. (5/5)

So that’s it! In all, I’ll say this is well worth the read, and the best zombie anthology to come out in years. Congrats to Apex and to Jason Sizemore. You’ve collected something highly entertaining and even touching. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves this genre of story.

Overall – 70/85 (4.1/5)

Purchase The Zombie Feed in ebook format:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

BOOK RELEASE: Suspense (The Spencer Nye Trilogy, Book 1) by Jason Letts


by Jason Letts

$2.99 at Amazon
$2.99 at Barnes & Noble



Spencer Nye can’t control the rage bubbling under her skin over the world around her. The trouble is, by the year 2102, the world has solved most of its great problems. Without hunger, war, greed, or even money, people obsess over the glamour of the Culture Industry and its mega-celebrity Idols, who vie for followers over the social networks of Connect.

But Spencer discovers there is plenty to fix within the Idols’ competition for more popularity. She becomes a diehard and promises to do anything to help her Idol, a dreamy movie star named Cleary Mintz, bring his vision of hope and purpose to the world. When she stumbles onto a threat against his life, she’ll have to fight harder than she ever thought possible or lose the man who means more to her than any other.

Suspense, the first book in a dystopian trilogy, contains 76,000 words and is recommended for ages 16 and up because of depictions of violence and some sexual themes.



From the author:

Suspense Book Release Giveaway!

Coming out with the first book in a new series is always exciting, but I doubt I've ever been as excited about a book release as I am for Suspense, book 1 of The Spencer Nye Trilogy. To see if I can get your enthusiasm up, I'm announcing some big prizes for its early and observant readers. All you have to do is read the book and send an email to me with the answers to four little questions to be entered. Then you'll be in the running for the following goodies.

Grand Prize: Your choice of either a Kindle Wifi with Special Offers + a custom Suspense Gelaskin OR a Nook Touch + a custom Suspense Gelaskin

First Prize: A custom Suspense Gelaskin + a signed paperback copy of Suspense

Second Prize: A signed paperback copy of Suspense

Rules and Deadline: To be entered in the grand prize drawings, participants must send me an email at infinitejuly (at) gmail (dot) com with the correct answers to four questions about the book. These questions will appear here on the day that Suspense is released around September 9th, and the contest will run for one month until October 9th (my birthday!) when winners will be drawn. Only U.S. residents can win the Grand Prize, but the First and Second prizes can be awarded internationally. I hope you enjoy the story, and thank you for reading!


(Visit the author's Facebook page, linked above, for questions and full details)


My own review of this book should appear before the last week of September, right here on the Journal. To say I'm excited to dive into this would be an understatement. I've been a fan of Jason's work from the beginning, and it will be great to see his writing continue to grow. Even without having read the book yet, I highly recommend.

Monday, September 5, 2011

SILAS Blog Tour!!!

Nope, no review today...but I do have an announcement that has to do with my own writing career!

I'm a little late to the game here - with the lack of power last week and all the overtime because of the hurricane, my internet usage was limited, at best - but I'm here to announce that the fine ladies of Kismet Book Touring kicked off the blog tour for Silas last week! Here is the list of hosts and links to the content they've provided so far:

Tour Dates:
Monday, August 29th - April, My Shelf Confessions
Tuesday, August 30th - Johnny, Pages of Forbidden Love
Wednesday, August 31st - Greta, Paranormal Wastelands
Thursday, September 1st - Lisa, A Casual Reader's Blog
Friday, September 2nd - Karen, The Slowest Bookworm
Monday, September 5th - Melissa, Books and Things
Tuesday, September 6th - Heather and Pushy, Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, September 7th - Cindy, Oodles of Books
Thursday, September 8th - Theresa, Just One More Paragraph
Friday, September 9th - Gef, Wagging The Fox
Monday, September 12th - Mandy, The Well-Read Wife
Tuesday, September 13th - aobibliophileô
Wednesday, September 14th - Aparajita, Le' Grande Codex
Thursday, September 15th - Farrah, The Book Faery Reviews
Friday, September 16th - Nevey, Le Vanity Victorienne


So now that you have the list, whatever are you supposed to do with it? Well, as a part of this tour, along with the interviews and special stuff that abounds, we're giving away a Kindle 3 along with a brand-spanking-new Silas skin! All you have to do is go the the blogs, read through the posts, and enter into the contest forms. Each form has a rather simple question having to do with building the Silas playlist, and the correct answer will award you 3 points toward the grand prize! In other words, there are 15 chances to gain a total of 45 "entries". Can you get better than that?

So head over to the blogs, folks, and enter to win! Oh, and help support up-and-coming authors!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: Tears of Requiem (Song of Dragons Book II) by Daniel Arenson

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Look out, everyone! Big scaly beasts are on the loose!

Daniel Arenson returns with the second book in his Song of Dragons series, Tears of Requiem. We pick up the story right where Blood of Requiem leaves off, with the surviving Vir Requis – King Benedictus, his wife Lacrimosa, their daughter Agnus Dei, and Kyrie – fresh off their defeat and (near) fatal wounding of Benedictus’s brother and ruler of the land, Dies Irae. The griffins have been released, and hopefully life may come just a tad easier for these poor, harrowed folks.

No such luck, because Gloriae, the stolen daughter of Benedictus, has released the Nightshades, a race of strange shadow-creatures that swallow the souls of the living, leaving a hollowed (yet still living) husk behind. I can’t tell you how horrible this concept sounds, on theory and on paper. To have your soul sucked away and splintered into a million tiny pieces, while your consciousness is still aware, feeling every morsel of fear, longing, and pain it endures? It really is one of the more frightening concepts I’ve seen in a book.

Anyhow, I’m getting off track here. So Gloriae releases the nightshades, and then Dies Irae, who’s apparently indestructible – a dagger in the eye won’t kill this bastard? What’ll it take! – kicks his adopted (stolen) daughter out of his kingdom, for all intents and purposes disowning her. She eventually runs into the remaining Vir Requis she is intent on killing, to prove her loyalty to her “father”. Angst, fighting, seduction, and all sorts of other wackiness ensue.

From there, the book becomes a mad dash against time, with the survivors trying to figure out a way to defeat the ostensibly undefeatable nightshades and save what’s left of this new kingdom of the living dead. Blood is spilled, love is made, unexpected allies are brought together, and we all know that though there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for these tormented characters, they’re going to experience a good amount of tragedy first.

This is a more than worthy successor to the first book. It moves along very quickly, and it really boils down to a mad – though exceedingly violent – survival romp. The characters stay true to themselves, some make grand discoveries about themselves, and through it all an almost horror-novel sensation of isolation and fear washes over near every word.

And yet, unlike the first installment, there is an underlying sense of lightness. Strange as that is to say about a book as dark as this, there is actual levity in certain parts – particularly in the repartee between Agnus Dei and her father. These scenes worked very well to split up the doom and gloom that encompasses the rest of the story.

As for characters, Benedictus remains the stalwart old king, firm in his beliefs and yet nearly overwhelmed with guilt. Kyrie grows immensely, though he is still somewhat trapped in the timidity of being a very young man, especially when it comes to women. (As the father of two teenage boys, I can relate.) Agnus Dei demonstrates perhaps the most growth, as the angst that consumed her in the first book slowly wanes, revealing a strong and yet still sensitive woman underneath. About the only character that seemed a little off was Lacrimosa, as she sometimes acted a bit out of character, almost as a convenience for the plot. And Dies Irae is evil incarnate yet again, a bundle of hatred and brutality so single-minded in his goals that he’ll even sacrifice his own humanity to reach them…though it could be argued that, because of his loathing, he ceased to be human long ago.

As I said, Tears of Requiem is a brisk novel. It punches you in the gut from the very first chapter and only lets you regain your breath for moments at a time. It brings you on a journey of darkness and love, and asks the question of how this struggling race of people will ever survive in a world where everyone hates them. Even with this, it’s an overly fun read, a tale of mythical adventure. And Tears of Requiem does something very important for any series; it builds the tension of a fantastic storyline, with the sorrow at its conclusion setting up what is surely to be an intense – and imminently heartbreaking – conclusion to the series.

Bring it on, Mr. Arenson. I’m waiting.

Plot - 9

Characters - 9

Voice - 10

Execution - 8

Personal Enjoyment – 9

Overall – 45/50 (4.5/5)

Purchase Tears of Requiem in ebook format:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: Clash of Faiths by David Dalglish

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

David Dalglish writes what I want to read. He’s listed as a fantasy author, and his books take place in a world that includes magic, orcs, wolf-men, paladins, knights, and ancient gods, but that’s only the surface of what’s happening. I look at Dalglish’s work like this – whimsical explorations of modern-day themes and issues that both entertain and force the reader to examine what goes on in the real world around them.

Clash of Faiths, the second book in his Paladins series, is no different. It continues the story of Jerico and Darius, the paladins of Ashhur and Karak, respectively, and their struggles in the time after the attempted wolf-man invasion of Durham. Jerico finds himself up north, prisoner of a man named Kaide, who is heading up a people’s rebellion against the brutal Lord Hemman. It might not be the best of situations to be in, but at least he’s hidden from the legions of Karak who are hunting him, those who’ve recently destroyed the Citadel, leaving Jerico as possibly the last of his kind. All the while Darius is stumbling about all by his lonesome, getting into trouble and being an overall grouchypants after his run-in with Velixar, Karak’s prophet. And Velixar isn’t done with him…not in the slightest. It is the Big V’s principal goal to lead Darius back to his faith – or the Dark Side, if you will.

The story plays out in equally distributed parts, flipping from Jerico to Darius and back again, paralleling their respective struggles and demonstrating just the types of people these two faithful men are. Jerico joins forces with Kaide (who is actually one of my favorite characters Dalglish has ever created; a living, breathing, gray area of a concept) against Lord Sebastian Hemman, while Darius ends up being thrown in prison by said Lord, for the sin of not being faithful enough to Karak’s cause, even though Darius is constantly professing his love of the deity…and believing every word of it. It is there, while in prison, that Velixar comes to him once again, therefore setting the stage for the rest of the tale to play out.

The story climaxes in a final battle between Hemman’s men and Kaide’s army of farmers and merchants. Unlike most episodes of warfare in Dalglish’s novels, this one is brisk, taking up only perhaps a tenth of the text. Why is that? Because the fighting, while intriguing, isn’t the point of the book. It only serves as a metaphor for the war raging inside Darius’s head – can he love his friend even after all he’s been through, what constitutes righteousness in a faith that preaches order and conquest above adoration, and which system of belief is right, which is wrong, and does it even matter if he chooses one over the other?

This is what makes Dalglish’s books so special to me – those posed questions. And finally, we have the order of Karak shown to be what I’ve long suspected it is – a religious cult that uses suppression and mind control to grow its following. One might ask, but why would someone willingly join a cult like that? The answer is quite simple, given the context of the world it exists in: there is safety in power, in influence, and Karak offers that. The deity promises protection (and a lack of decapitation) to those who follow, while those who don’t are doomed to a lifetime of pain and flight from an aggressive enemy. Add to that the fact that the concepts of order and self-control are the tenets of the faith, and one could understand how an individual who feels unstable could look at the order as a way to heal the fractured parts within them. There are many similar cults, such as Scientology, in the world today that do much of the same. They rely on coercion and peoples’ inherent insecurities to draw them in, promising solutions to the ills of their lives, and then instill the members with an us-against-the-world mentality. If you’re not for us, you’re against us, to the extreme. It is these elements that make Dalglish’s books that much more important, not to mention insightful, than many other works of fiction.

To counterbalance Karak’s aggressive, neo-fascist nature, we have followers of Ashhur, the passive, loving god. When I first started reading these novels, I always took Ashhur to be a representation of Christianity – which I’m sure the author intended. However, the more I read, the more I realize that this is not entirely the case. In fact, you can look at it like this: Ashhur’s teachings are the manifestation of all that is good in spiritual belief; the care for others, the virtue of forgiveness, the living of life with the sole aim of being the best individual you can be. It’s an inclusive system of belief, one in which all people, even those who don’t believe, are treated as equals. Unlike the history of Christianity, Ashhur’s followers don’t actively seek to convert the people, only to show how much they care, saying that if you ever need a place to stay, a steadying hand to lead the way, someone to heal your sore and tired bones, we’ll be here with no strings attached. In other words, everyone has a chance at salvation, whether they buy into the dogma or not. And Jerico embodies this. He treats every person he meets with the same amount of respect until they prove a danger. This is also the reason why Darius has a very difficult time understanding his friend’s actions: to the dark paladin, existence is a series of trials, of sacrifices, both mentally and physically, to a demanding god. The mere concept of something like forgiveness, or even pity, are lost on him, at least on the surface. But once he dives a little deeper, he has the potential to learn that not only is he capable of changing, of becoming something other than the stormtrooper of death he is, but all people are. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent here, and I’m sure this sounds more like a term paper than a review, but I felt this book deserved to be broken down in this way. Every word written down means something ­– each line of dialogue, each description, each instance of cruelty or kindness. That being said, the only thing I didn’t like about Clash of Faiths was the very end of the book. After so much flowing prose and inner turmoil, it seemed that suddenly everything happens too quickly, especially Darius’s character development. I would’ve liked some more exposition, more scenes of him questioning his faith and coming to grips with the possibility that what he’s always believed may be a lie. But that didn’t happen, and in a way that’s a shame. Darius and Jerico, and their relationship as brothers-in-spirit, deserved it.

That being said, this is still a wonderful book. It more than adds to the canon of David Dalglish’s work – it creates a template for the beliefs of the world that I’m sure will be carried on in volumes to come. The scenes that built upon what we already know about the characters were wonderful. And Velixar? Let’s just say he’s deliciously evil, and whenever he appears on the page, that scene becomes his. Also, one thing the ending did get right was introduce us to a new, potentially lethal villain, one that I’m sure will appear in the next book and wreck all sorts of ungodly havoc. Just that has me excited to continue.

In closing, Clash of Faiths is well worth a read, for both fans of Dalglish and those new to his work. It’s filled with important questions and shrewd observations of the world at large, and it is an improvement on the previous book in the series. I seriously can’t give the author any more props than to say I’m a fan for life, that everything he does strikes me where it counts, and it is always a joy to read what he puts on paper. To me he is the best fantasy author of his generation, the Stephen King of the sword-and-sorcery genre who transcends the normal tropes, and even when there are things I think can be improved, what he puts out there is second to absolutely no one.


Plot – 10

Characters - 10

Voice - 10

Execution - 7

Personal Enjoyment – 9

Overall – 46/50 (4.6/5)

Purchase Clash of Faiths: The Paladins 2 in Ebook format: