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Tracey's favorite authors on Smashwords
Black Ice: collected stories.
Published on May 17, 2012.
Visit their website.
Charles de Lint
Published on May 18, 2013.
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That Dratted Affair with the Dream Engine.
Published on October 29, 2010.
(4.75 from 4 reviews)
Visit their website.
View their blog.
Published on February 21, 2013.
Visit their website.
View their blog.
Krista D. Ball
Published on March 5, 2013.
Visit their website.
View their blog.
When on High.
Published on January 4, 2012.
Visit their website.
View their blog.
Point of Knives: A Novella of Astreiant.
Published on July 8, 2012.
(4.00 from 1 review)
Ill-Conceived Magic: A Monster Haven Short Story.
Published on March 6, 2013.
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
Visit their website.
View their blog.
Dragon, Bucket, Moon.
Published on November 9, 2012.
Smashwords book reviews by Tracey
- Jockeys and Jewels
on Aug. 17, 2011
This was a Member Giveaway on LibraryThing, in ebook form – thank you! A longer version of this review is at: http://agoldoffish.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/jockeys-and-jewels-bev-petterson/
What it says on the tin for this book that it's a mystery/romance set in the racing world. And it hits all of those elements pretty equally: Kurt is looking for the reason the dead cop, Connor, was looking at the track's stables, why he was murdered, as well as who did it. Naturally enough, he finds himself irresistibly attracted to Julie, and vice versa. And the book is placed in a detailed racing setting. Unfortunately, I think it fell a little bit short on all three components.
I find the title rather unfortunate. Alliteration for alliteration's sake – spoiler or not – is not a positive, and the fact that it is a big fat spoiler for the mystery aspect of the story is a shame.
I can't say I cared about anyone in the story; some of the minor characters were enjoyable, but the main focus was on people I couldn't drum up much interest in. Kurt's lack of finesse as a lover (in the old-fashioned use of "lover" as well as that more commonly used now) is off-putting, and Julie – a driven, ambitious apprentice jockey who wants to ride more than anything else – just made me angry as she proceeded to get comprehensively drunk the night before her first big race. The stupidity blew my mind. "Kurt stepped from Lazer’s stall, his expression inscrutable, and the butterflies in her stomach morphed into giant moths. Was he disgusted with her drinking last night?" If he wasn't, I was.
It was a quick read, and mostly enjoyable; it could have been better.
- Dead in Time
on Aug. 17, 2011
I really hesitate before giving five stars to a book. The ones that are unquestionably five stars create a benchmark that isn't easy to hit - Tolkien, and Austen, and Chesterton and Sayers and the complete works of Guy Gavriel Kay. I especially didn't expect to ever give five stars to a book I can't hold in my hands, which I downloaded by sheer chance from Smashwords.com. But one nice thing about Smashwords is that you can read a substantial sample before committing to buy a book, and I fell in love very quickly with Dead in Time by Anna Reith. Happily, the download was available as a pdf - not ideal, but accessible.
So, late one night Ellis is working on her thesis, when an album starts playing on her stereo which shouldn't be playing on her stereo. It's an old favorite of her mother's by a band called Brother Rush, and not one she remembered putting in queue.
“Not bad for a man with a dodgy perm and lurex trousers,” I murmured, taking off my glasses to rub eyes bees-winged enough to be buzzing.
“Well, that’s charming,” he said. “Thank you very much.”
When she looks up she is more than startled to find her window seat occupied by the lead singer for Brother Rush, Damon Brent. Which would be, in itself, startling enough if he hadn't been dead for thirty years.
And with that her life is changed.
It was on August 28, 1976 (I wonder if Anna Reith has the same sort of reason to hate that date as I do), as we see in flashback segments and hear from Damon himself, that he held one last huge party at his country house, awash with booze and drugs. The latter were blamed for the … accident that took his life; he was found naked in a pool of blood, tangled in the shower curtain; obviously, he slipped, bashed his head on the sink, tried to get up, and hit his head again, and lay bleeding to death alone as the party ebbed in the house below. But, he tells Ellis, he knows that's not what happened.
It's a straightforward idea – a ghost prodding the living to resolve the manner of his death. But this – this is unique, and beautiful, and so well written. The characters are wonderfully drawn – I don't remember enjoying characterizations so much, not in a long time. The writing is filled with sharp observations and humor, a solid knowledge of music and a kind of alarming depth of knowledge of glam rock. I loved Damon Brent (even though I kept picturing Russell Brand for some reason, despite the fact that Day is blond); his band-mates and wife, and Ellis and her family and friends, were three-dimensional. It's so frustrating to read this, so real that I should be able to go to iTunes and download Brother Rush. I want to.
In the meantime, what I can do is refer this book to everyone I can think of, and read everything Anna Reith has written. And I will.
- Blood Tide
on Sep. 19, 2011
This was a LibraryThing Member Giveaway. Maybe I should really avoid young adult-aimed books. But there are plenty of YA books I still enjoy, and I think even when I was a young adult I would have hated this ... There is little textual indication of when or where this takes place, apart from ships that can wreck and leave bits of wooden hull here and there - the novella description says 1880, and then some character finally says something about living in the United States: the writing is muddy. The main female characters are given names which, had I been cursed with them, would have prompted me to divorce my parents the moment it was legally possible. There is a juvenile tone to the writing, to an extent that I am shocked the author is married with children. It is a viscous mass of cliches, and even as short as it is I could not force myself to finish it.
- Let the Dragon Wake
on Feb. 26, 2012
Welcome to a world where flowers are grown for the lower classes and made for the wealthy, by magic, along with birds and sunlight and blades of grass; where a soldier is, literally, married to his blade; where Fate is king and almost all-powerful. The first thing I thought on firing up the Kindle was that the writing was sheerly gorgeous, thickly embroidered with metaphor and simile like nothing else I've read … and I wondered whether it would pall after a while.
It didn't. There were one or two similes that landed with a thud, but for the most part it succeeded at a grace as light and playful and attractive as the cats that populate the story.
… the first room was a workshop with a counter and display-shelves, and what it sold was obviously dust…
… something painted by a madman on parchment of human ears….
Wyrdrake, driven by a deep need he can barely put words to, goes to King Fate to request a bride. I'm not sure if his freedom to do so is because of his position, or because the land is more egalitarian than most. It is known abroad that not only can Fate and his people create such things as birds and butterflies, he can also create a bride upon demand – and in fact has done, although that lady upon facing her impending marriage determined that she wanted Fate, not her intended husband. The bride can be made – the love cannot. And Fate's apprentice, Marr, wants more than he has. And thereby hangs a tale.
The city where this story is set took some getting used to. "Sondolattis, city of marvels, whose people lived with heaven in plain sight. With mundane magic, and commonplace wonders. They lived so long that they mastered their daily work, and then went beyond mastery and became miracle-workers." It's not only that there is magic there – it is magic. It is built largely of dragon bone, and rests on the back of another enormous dragon, sleeping in the lulled peace of having been married to King Fate long ago. This is the key to keeping the dragon docile and still: she has been given husband after husband through the long years … and that is definitely one of the things that took getting used to. There are, in Sondolattis, two sorts of marriage: the familiar kind between a man and a woman, and this kind, the second marriage, in which a person is bound in devotion and loyalty to … something. It could be a soldier married to his sword, or a guard married to the gate which is his post, or a scholar in a clock tower married to Time.
Somewhere along the way, though, the strangeness fell away, and the city made its way under my skin, and it all seemed perfectly right and natural. Let the Dragon Wake is a novel (or novella)-length fairy tale. It makes no attempt to explain logic away its improbabilities and impossibilities, but lets them glimmer and shine in their setting of dragon bone. It is beautiful and unexpected and harsh and sweet. It's a gem.
on Oct. 06, 2012
This is a very unusual book. I won it through LibraryThing’s Member Giveaway in exchange for a review; otherwise I’m not sure I would have finished it. Yet in the end I’m glad I did finish it.
The title is just what it appears to be, a play on “whore” and “horticulture”. (I’m sure there’s a word for that; conflation?) For the first part: The lives of four young women of antebellum America are highlighted, and through them the expectations and limitations of women in the time period. Four young women begin as innocents, with their own ideas of what life will be like; four young women wind up with their innocence shattered, their expectations crumpled. Life acts on these girls – rarely do any of them have the chance to take action to change their own circumstances, and when they do make the attempt it tends not to work out well for them. This is not a book of erotica, much less a romance novel – there are some scenes which border on the graphic but nothing to compare to most of what’s out there. It is more than anything a sociological study of the circumstances leading up to different forms of prostitution – by its legal definition as well as circumstantial – through four (five, in a way) separate but intersecting stories. The young bride solidly and terribly under her husband’s thumb and the young woman attempting to build a business and maintain an illicit love affair are not much better off than the actual prostitutes – “owned”, in a way, by their madams. This is one of those books which scours away all the little wishful 21st century fantasies of a simpler life in a simpler time; this is one of those books which leaves all the Happily-Ever-After endings looking kind of silly and impossible
For the second part of the title: Throughout the book is woven the language of flowers, and language relating to flowers and plants. This was obviously done very deliberately, but the intention was not so obtrusive as to be annoying.
In some ways it is not an easy read. It’s set in the present tense, which can be off-putting. And the subject matter is difficult. I don’t think it will ruin anyone’s reading experience (and might serve as fair warning) to say that the closest thing to a happy ending in this book is not very happy at all. No one is entirely good in these stories, and no one is entirely happy, even at their happiest – misery runs thick and heavy for these women. Innocence is largely a matter of ignorance, and the ignorance is massive, though short-lived. It’s fascinating to see how these girls’ lives spiral downward, and disheartening. There is a spirit and a sense of humor to the points of view which both makes it easier and makes it harder to watch. This is a book after which I didn’t much like anyone, but particularly men, and after which I probably should have reached for Winnie-the-Pooh or something equally antidotal.
- A Heart in Sun and Shadow
on Oct. 06, 2012
I won this book through LibraryThing’s Member Giveaway, and I’ve been far too long in getting to it. I blame a Kindle malfunction which wiped out my collections, so that I lost track of it. That’s my story, anyway.
Don’t let the terrible cover put you off. It looks like a bad PNR. It’s not. Not bad, not PNR (well, there is what could be called a paranormal element, and there is romance, but – no, it’s not a PNR). This is a beautiful, beautiful fairy tale, set in Cymru-that-is – perhaps Wales of old, perhaps not – and playing off any number of old stories without ever locking into “retelling” of any one. It is sensual without being explicit, bardic without resorting to archaisms, funny when it isn’t busy breaking your heart. There’s a sting in the tale, though.
It begins with the birth of a girl with a startling head of blood-red hair and equally startling green eyes. Her mother does not survive the difficult birth, her father rejects what must because of that coloring be a changeling child, and the midwife, rather sadly, takes her away to leave her by the ocean. Through a sequence of events that tends to confirm that the baby has faery blood, she survives, and lands in the care of a wisewoman, Tesn, who adopts her, names her Áine, and raises her as a daughter and apprentice.
Meanwhile, the twin sons of Brychan, Chief of Llynwg – Idrys and Emyr – never exactly homebodies, get themselves into trouble one evening while hunting deer. They’ve roved too far from home, and are startled to find themselves following a beautiful woman with blood-red hair and – no, not green, but silver eyes. She is no changeling, this one, and no halfling, but full-blooded faery, with nothing human in her, and she takes a fancy to the handsome princelings. This, as many tales suggest, is rarely a good thing. And so it proves for the boys. She takes them both to her bed, and there they remain, night after night. During the day they are left to their own devices, and despite the pleasant oblivion they find with Seren, during the day they are painfully aware that they are captives, and that their beloved parents must be missing them, and that though just days seem to be passing faery is notorious for running on a different clock: what seems like a week to them might be months outside. The two manage to escape, but she finds them quickly, and punishes their ingratitude with a curse: each twin will spend half his life as a large, black hound, Emyr from sunset to sunrise and Idrys from sunrise to sunset.
a better cover
By the time Áine comes into their lives, they have seven years in this state – both living as Emyr, with the story going that Idrys was killed on that hunt that left the twins missing for months, the hound being a gift from the hermit who nursed the survivor back to health. Áine slowly falls in love with, she believes, Emyr, who is warm and a little sad during the day, and much more prone to dark moods at night. Because of the special abilities that set her apart, along with some keen observation, she figures out the basics of the situation (the only person to ever do so), and – in love with both aspects of Emyr and so both twins – she looks forward to settling in the village for a time of happiness for all of them. This is almost immediately thwarted when she is presented with the possibility of breaking the curse. And any pain the protagonists experienced before that moment is dwarfed by what follows. It was already clear from her treatment of the twins that Seren is cruel; the four tasks she sets for Áine, to retrieve the components for items needed to break the curse, are evil.
The writing is simply lovely. It manages to blend a contemporary feeling (“Morning,” Áine said … “Sleep well, I hope?”…) with a genuine feel of Welsh bardry. The voice is warm and sympathetic, and Áine is a beautifully built character. She was born different, and raised different, and the latter both emphasizes and ameliorates the former; the fear that meets her coloration is balanced by the respect all feel for the healer and wise woman. She is alone in the world but for Tesn, but has learned – she thinks – to accept that. When she meets Emyr – so subtly different at night from how he is during the day – the aloneness begins to look more like loneliness, and things begin to change.
The world of Cymru -that-is is lightly sketched in, with enough color and shape to set off the brilliant characters and not so much as to overwhelm the reader. The humans and fey (and in-between) who populate the land are the focal point, and they’re vivid and alive. Even characters who are only seen briefly bring their stories with them – Blodeuedd (who has her own painful tale) is sad and spirited; Bran the Raven King is vivid and kind and wicked, and unfathomable. Seren herself is more of a blank; there is very little more to her than malice and lust – but really, that works. It fits in with an uncomplicated view of Faery as completely lacking in humanity, as completely Other and alien. (Which also helps, a little, with the terrible decision forced onto Áine; I’m still processing that one.)
I’m extremely torn about this book. My feelings fluctuate wildly between that was the only way it could go and I can’t believe that happened. It manages to both feel right and to just demoralize me. This is not a children’s story, or one of the old stories cleaned up and Disnified into prettiness. What is done, what is required before the end, is horrible. What is gained by it is … suited to Celtic myth, actually. Happily Ever After? I can’t answer that, and not just because of spoilers. I loved this book right up until the moment things change irrevocably, and finished it in a sort of numb state; now, writing the long spoiler-filled thoughts below, I’m just a little angry about it. Oddly, I’m not so much angry at Annie Bellet, the author, as I am at Áine. There had to be another way.
Okay, actually I am a little put out with Annie Bellet. There are arcs that begin in this book which are beautifully completed – and others which hang in midair, dangling unfinished. There are threads which could have been woven from the beginning throughout which might have changed the ending. There are guns, in the Chekhov metaphor, which go unfired. (And one small thing: Áine takes a knife from the giant fairy smith, and says “I’ll see it returned to you.” Was it?)
Would I recommend this (if I recommended books)? I honestly don’t know. With Goodreads firmly embedded in my habits now I had five golden stars firmly in mind through most of the read. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed the writing. But. Big, huge, nasty but.
I definitely want to read more of Annie Bellet’s writing. But it’s like the fey – beautiful, but I don’t know if I can trust it.
Spoilers on the other side of the black hound.
For her final task, Áine has to collect the tears of a faery woman in a little bowl and bring them back. She finds the faery – but the woman has been turned into a willow tree, and it appears that the only way to make her cry would be to kill the woman’s three children. The fairy smith Trahaearn had told Áine that there is another way to break a curse: kill the one who did the curing. Unfortunately, in this case, that would require Áine to take Seren’s place in the little house by the lake (the drychpwll), never able to leave. (Seren “cannot stray far … wields great power from there, but her reach in either Cymru is small. If you kill her you would be bound to the drychpwll in her place, immortal but unable to leave her domain.”) And so she has to decide whether to go back and kill Seren, or kill the three innocent children of a woman who never hurt her, or just give up.
I hated the choice Áine had to make; I was shocked at the choice she did make. I kept expecting some third, clever alternative … Saving Bran on the way back from the first task was an act of kindness typical of Áine, something done with no thought of reward, but it was rewarded. Her aid to the giant was done partly to accomplish her goal, but also – mainly, I think – because the sight of the man’s pain was more than she could bear and she had to help him; if this had been rewarded with more than the requested clasps – if, perhaps, Trahaearn had given her a harp that made music of surpassing beauty, and Áine was able to use it to wring tears from the tree-woman, or … anything, really – it would have been fitting. Or if the fairy steed, the March Cann, had had something to do with solving this problem, it would have felt right. Or if there had been some other incidental act of kindness that came back around to her. Or if she had wept at the foot of the willow tree and told the tale of her dilemma – how, especially having danced with the three fairy children, she could never consider killing them, even if it meant that she had to go back and kill Seren and take her place, and this had wrung tears from the fairy woman … I don’t know. I waited for an alternative right up until the moment Áine cut the first child’s throat, and then just kept reading in something of a state of shock.
I think this is the problem, in fact – I was disappointed and taken aback that a touch of reality intruded here, and there was no clever solution. The appearance of a perfectly made fairy tale was so strong up to this point, so well done, and this was so jarring, that while I never considered closing the book – I needed to know the ending – the heart was sucked out of it for me. So much is made throughout the book of a wisewoman’s duties and single oath: To do no harm – and yet here, to break a curse which when you come right down to it wasn’t hurting anyone and which the twins had lived with for years, she is faced with killing either Seren or the children, and decides to kill three children – and three children who had just danced with her and brought her great joy, and nestled up next to her to sleep, trustingly. She killed them in their sleep. I think any alternative would have been better than this. And, too, how could this lead to a happy ending? It can’t. And it doesn’t. Which is also dismaying.
What happens is this: Áine completes the tasks and brings all the components back to Seren, and Seren creates two necklaces. These she gives to Áine with the instruction that they must be put over the heads of the twins at sunset of Midsummer Day as they are about to change. The obstacles to this are that Áine is transformed into an old woman, toothless and mute (and the twins, her loves, will have to recognize her before sunset for her to get her own shape back), and sent back into the real world more than three years after she left to pursue her dream, and on Midsummer Day. She makes it to the village with help, Idrys (in hound form) recognizes her scent, Emyr finally twigs to her identity at the last second, she can’t get to them because one of their men is blocking the crazy old lady and so throws the necklaces; in classic Seven Swans fashion one settles neatly over Emyr’s head, but Idrys’s doesn’t quite connect, and it hits the ground and vanishes. So he will continue to be a hound in the daylight… Oh, and by the way, Áine arrives just as Emyr is about to get married. And neither she nor Idrys can prevent it. And while she’s a smart girl, Emyr’s wife, she won’t have his cursed brother and his faery girlfriend – who also happens to be the beloved of her own husband – around tempting Emyr and scaring off trade opportunities. So: Emyr, married to someone else, Idrys still a part-time hound, and he and Áine – an infanticide three times over – basically banished. Was killing three children worth this ending? Really?
As the main body of the book ends (there is an epilogue), Áine can’t tell them what she had to do to break the curse. She promises to tell later, though – and I simply can’t believe Idrys – or Emyr – would accept it.
In skimming the text for the Welsh names that would not stick in my mind, I was painfully reminded of this:
Trahaearn, on the knife he was commissioned to forge: “It was not until I’d finished that I realized what I’d made. Once sharpened, that knife would be capable of killing any fey. The Wind’s Daughter is petty, her ire easily raised. To give her a weapon such as this, well, I could not agree.”
No more curses, no more hurting.
Needless to say, I would have done things very differently. Clever alternative, as above – or, simply, fine, if she’s going to have to give up being a wisewoman she needs to go kill the evil bitch who cast the curse, and suck it up and take her place. Seren was never closely confined, obviously: she was able to reach out to the twins and ensnare them in the first place. I could see this option going one of two ways: either Áine selflessly gives up her vocation as a wisewoman to kill Seren and then selflessly gives up her claim on the men she loves to take Seren’s place and never see them again – - or she selflessly etc. and kills Seren and gets some kind of message out – through Bran, or through the March Cann, or through Blodeuedd, or something – for the twins to come to her periodically (since Idrys is, literally, dead to the world, maybe he could go live with her?) … I don’t know. Anything but this.
- Golden Feathers Falling
on Oct. 06, 2012
This LTMG fell through the cracks; the format I had to download it in at the time I won it some months ago, PDF, meant I would have to read it on the screen of my laptop which, while very doable, can be awkward, especially as I haven’t figured out how to bookmark in Adobe (if you can -?). (Excuses, excuses.) So my read of this book and the subsequent review have been a long time coming. But now I have a Kindle, and the galley took very nicely to conversion.
So did I, and so, hopefully, this review will make up for the delay. I love this book. Not only because it brings back happy memories of The History of Western Art in art school with the Assyrian winged man-headed bulls – which I now know are called shedu.
It’s as alien a world, in some ways, as can be found in any fantasy novel. While there are horses and beer and all sorts of familiar trappings, the sun is not the sun, nor the stars the stars, and the character names are very different. I love the main character’s name Alit, and may steal it. Or just rename my Kindle, because it’s kind of ideal. The sun, by the way, is Anki’s Chariot, and the stars his Ashuras. But the alienness is counterbalanced by the fluid, colloquial dialogue. The tablet house Alit and her brother run (writing letters for a largely illiterate society) is presented no differently from any more familiar business, the introductions to its purpose and doings made seamlessly. There is no pretension here, no “behold all the research I did which I here demonstrate in odd subject and verb placement”, or calling wine by the word people in that time and place would have used. That is generally a sure way of creating distance between the characters and setting of a book and its readers, of constantly reminding readers that this is a book and these are not real people. The wonderful characters in these pages are aggressively, vividly alive, and they speak as they speak without a care under Anki’s Chariot for what historians might think of the style of it. The research is obvious in the simple veracity of the setting – and the writing has an authority which lets the characters curse and gossip in perfectly ordinary English without raising hackles.
Funnily, for no good reason the writing has been making me think of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser (which I read a very long time ago, and may not have borne any resemblance to GFF at all) – and the Amazon description reads thusly: “inspired by Mesopotamia under Persian rule and the sword-and-sorcery pulps”. Well there you go.
A discussion about all the things wrong with fantasy (on limyaael’s journals) delved into setting once upon a time, and derided the tendency to set fantasy in the same settings over and over. There are, it must be admitted, more Celtic fantasies than are strictly required by quota – and I say this as a complete and utter sucker for a good Celtic fantasy. But with the whole wide world at your feet and all of time to choose from, it is perhaps remarkable that writers keep going back to the familiar, the well-trodden path. Marcin Wrona took Frost’s other path, and while it hasn’t made all the difference – he is by far a good enough writer that a Celtic fantasy by him would undoubtedly be just lovely – it has made a difference. It’s a joy to be a tourist in a new land, to gawk at the mosaics and the fashions, to experience the sophistication and the barbarity, and to try to avoid seeing the bodies impaled on the hillsides.
- Promising Light
on Oct. 06, 2012
I tried – I really did. I tried not long after I first got the book, and the writing fought me, and I set it aside. Shame drove me to try again because this was a LibraryThing Member Giveaway book. I was determined to read it.
But the writing still fought the effort. Phrasing was awkward; there was no infodumping, I'll give the writer that, but there was also little effort to give me any threads of story to weave into a rope to hang onto; the names grated on me, mostly Earth-ish (Grace and Pearl and Peter and William and so on) but not all (Dar and Silva and Shyra and Phoresa and such– and then there was Rebekah, which with its more Jewish style was just odd in this context.) I made it a couple more chapters, but still had no real idea of setting or background or who anyone was supposed to be (or why I was supposed to care) when I hit the final wall: the main character got "a bit sweaty" before lunch and hoped she would have a chance to visit the "powder room".
The powder room?
From wisegeek.com: "The term powder room dates back to the early 18th century, when it was used to refer to a closet-sized room where people went to have their wigs repowdered." Currently a euphemism for a public women's room. Or, of course, the place where gunpowder and shot is stored. And, unless this fantasy world is closer to our own in some period later than 1800, ridiculous in this context.
Sorry. Can't do it.
on April 21, 2013
Excellent - really excellent. And as another reviewer said, the stupid one-star review needs balancing.
- Blood in the Water
on April 23, 2013
I was charmed by this story. That's not a word used much anymore, charmed, but it applies. There was a surprising amount of character development in 8200 words, and I really enjoyed those characters: Lana had more depth than I expected, Seree was nicely rounded, and their father was terrific. I have a new favorite Smashwords author!
- Something Sweet
on April 23, 2013
This was - as others have said - short and sweet. Megan Derr can pack a lot into a short story - character development (even walk-on characters think they're the heroes of the story), backstory, and some really lovely writing. I loved it.
- Midsummer Baker
on April 23, 2013
Sweet *and* hot. I'd love to see more of this world!
on April 23, 2013
I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I'm impressed by the storytelling here. Excellent writing, well-rounded characters with a well-made world to move around in. There's a reason I am working my way through all of Megan Derr's stories: they're good.