Into the Shadows falls within the paranormal/fantasy young adult genre, which by any measure is fairly saturated right now, but brings fresh ideas and positive changes which make this an excellent addition to the field. Karly Kirkpatrick has also added elements of a political thriller to create an engaging and often gripping tale of an intelligent young woman forced to make decisions about her life well before she is ready to. The novel begins with Paivi Anderson dealing with common teenage problems, the desire for a boyfriend, an annoying younger brother, school bullying, and ends with her world changed so far as to be almost unrecognisable.
While the beginning of this novel adequately introduces Paivi through descriptions of her thoughts and feelings about her world, it is the ways she reacts to the troubles she faces that makes her a likeable and involving protagonist. By the last half of this novel I greatly admired her, and began to reflect unflatteringly on some of the other female protagonists of this genre, and by the close of the novel, which clearly sets up for a sequel, I was impressed by her growth and maturity and by Kirkpatrick's skill in creating this character, which is unfortunately not fully utilised in the novel's opening.
In weaving so many elements together, Kirkpatrick has created a thrilling and original novel that should satisfy those who usually read any one of these genres. If her writing improves as much between the first and second novel as it does between the beginning and end of this one, then the follow up to Into the Shadows will be outstanding.
Dawn of Avalon by Anna Elliot is a prequel to her Twilight of Avalon Trilogy, which so far includes Twilight of Avalon and Dark Moon of Avalon both of which focus on the romance of Tristan and Isolde. Set in Arthurian England Dawn of Avalon looks further back at the beginning of the romance between Morgan and Merlin and establish the family relationships prior to the events of Elliott's other novels. As this novel is set apart in time, it stands alone as a complete, if short, work and it is not necessary to be familiar with the Elliot's other books to enjoy it.
Morgan is a seer and a healer who is serving in the camp of Uther's enemies with the hope of assisting in his down fall. Disguised as a young boy and assisting in the torture of an enemy soldier, she finds that her cover may be blown and must make a choice whether to save the soldier's life and risk her own or allow him to die. It is this choice and the possible consequences she can foresee which force Morgan to confront her anger and doubts about who it is foretold she will become and question her commitment to her country.
While this is, at its heart, a romance, Elliott skillfully puts us in the mind of a young woman of great power who has to make choices which impact much more widely than just herself. The novel is fast paced as the event progress and I felt swept along with the predicament the characters find themselves in. While you might expect this 'free' novel to merely advertise Elliott's other novels, it is a fully complete, stand-alone novel with an engaging plot and characters. This type of publication is one of the many hidden gems of the ePublishing industry, and one I hope many other authors will take note of.
Throughout Laura E. Bradford’s novel Flyday, central character Thomas Huxley has to put up with a lot, including breakups, family dramas and assassination attempts, and has had to deal with a lot before it has even begun. Set in a future, seemingly utopian, society the adventure novel centres around concepts of time travel and explores ideas of relationships, patriotism, and responsibility as Huxley overcomes challenges in every area of his life, some of which he can’t even remember.
Bradford’s characters are engaging and appealing, and this is one of the many strengths of her novel. While the novel focusses on Huxley, his relationships with his fiance and her friends and family often have a great effect on him and these characters drive much of the plot. Huxley’s memory loss, due to an unknown event in his past, complicates things and Bradford develops his character through his discovery of past events and actions. Some of the characters’ actions are not well justified at the time they occur but any dissatisfaction I felt at this was generally resolved by the conclusion of the novel.
The plot mostly follows Huxley’s actions, even when he time-travels, although it occasionally focusses on a a minor character in order to give further development of the plot. As a result the plot is very complex and while at times I was aware of the deliberately confusing narrative structure I never felt confused myself. The second half of the novel, where Bradford begins to bring the many strands of her narrative together, is especially good and demonstrates her clear plan for and control of her plot. Through a complex plot and deliberate and thoughtful development of characters, Flyday explores important themes in a light and original way.
Jay Lake's humorous short story Hitching to Aurora chronicles (very briefly) Ross Weil's attempts to leave the drug-dealing business and the perils and possible benefits of picking up midget hitch-hikers. Fast-paced and well-plotted, this story is short enough for a coffee break without feeling rushed or sparse.
Jay Lake is most well known for his science-fiction, fantasy and horror novels, many of which have been recognised with nominations and awards, and this short story ably blends sci-fi with humour and true-history elements. While Ross is the central focus, his red-neck pursuers and the aliens he encounters are all convincingly described through quick character sketches.
At under 5000 words for 99 cents you may think that you are better off buying a longer novel for the same price but this short story by an experienced author is, in my opinion, worth the cost and will allow you to consider whether Lake's fast-paced, graphic style is for you.
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Kimberly Montague’s first novel, Racing Outside the Line: A Love Story at 190mph is a romance centered around the racing world and focussing on central character Alexis’ love for Seth, whose father has been her and her brother’s guardian since her parents died. The novel focuses on not just the beginning of the relationship but what follows and covers an extended period of time in order to fully establish the characters and their connections These family relationships and their impact on Alexis and Seth’s romance are a focus of the novel, as is the scrutiny and judgment of others, and it is this broad range of interconnected themes which, for me, makes this novel more interesting than a conventional romance.
Alexis, who narrates the novel, is not perfect; she is at times selfish, manipulative and childish, and it is often these flaws which cause her many of the problems she has to overcome. It is these flaws though which make Alexis an interesting and appealing character and which got me involved in the plot of the novel. Montague’s writing engaged me in her character’s emotions, which are well described and believable, although the dialogue is at times less so. As with many first novels any flaws in the beginning are far overshadowed by the end of the novel, where Montague’s writing becomes natural, original and enjoyable.
Montague’s husband races and her familiarity with this world allows her to explain the interesting parts in just enough detail that it doesn’t bore those with little knowledge of or interest in racing like myself. This focus also adds interest to the novel as Alexis must reacquaint herself with the racing world, and those for whom it is a living, if her romance with Seth is to have any hope. Romance is not a genre I usually read but the engaging characters, interesting focus and broader focus on relationships outside of the main couple’s romance helped me to really enjoy Racing Outside the Line: A Love Story at 190mph.
Jennifer Hudock’s novel The Goblin Market references several canonical works of prose and poetry from the past which will evoke familiar memories in any fan of fantasy literature. While, as a result, parts of the plot feel very familiar, they are reworked in a way which is exciting and original. Meredith begins with a commitment to save her sister from the goblin king, no matter the cost, but finds that bargains of that kind are rarely simple.
While Meredith’s physical journey to the goblin king’s castle to rescue her sister, and possibly the whole world, it is her internal journey from a girl who has sacrificed her happiness to give her sister everything she needs to a confident woman who is willing to give up even more for a greater cause. Hudock’s descriptive prose puts the reader in Meredith’s mind and the reader is quickly drawn into a relationship with the protagonist.
While it is clear that the novel could be extended into a sequel, the conclusion doesn’t confirm this, while also lacking resolution to some plots points. This is a pet peeve of mine, as I like each novel to stand alone as well as possibly part of a series, but as it was only some minor points which were not fully answered it did not impact on my enjoyment too much, and I will likely buy the sequel if it is written. The number of errors, a common problem with independently published ebooks, might also bother some readers, as it did me. These criticisms are minor though when you consider the enjoyable fairy-tale feeling and exciting plot that Jenifer Hudock has created in The Goblin Market.