The Secret Beneath the Ice is the story of the thoughtship Navika and its pilot Oonak and their journey through the Galaxy. In their attempt to avoid the Enemy they come upon the lovely blue world of Avani. They expect to touch down without problems due to the seeming lack of technological advance on the planet. They were wrong.
What we have here is a science fiction action tale/adventure. Oonak and Navika are interesting characters who are going to have to figure out what happened to them - a regular whodunit I guess. We have got 16 pages that I really want to find out the rest of the story to.
Andrew Crusoe writes well. 16 pages is not a lot to impart a story with but Crusoe manages just fine.
Shane Jiraiya Cummings is a popular writer of dark fantasy. You can get the short-story "Smoke Dragon" for free on his website.
Power-hungry and greedy people are to be found all over the world I imagine. Along with the hunger for more we also sometimes find those who work for a lighter world.
"Smoke Dragon" is the story of the fight between two who are on the polar opposites of the above traits. The people fighting on the side of the Smoke Dragon want what they do not have even if it means killing to get it. On the other side we find Yamabushi Kaidan and his apprentices.
In "Smoke Dragon" we get a story packed with action, magic and martial arts set in a kind of Japan. Mr. Cummings writes a fascinating tale of disillusionment and the fight for something more than oneself and those nearest and dearest to us.
Originally published as “Yamabushi Kaidan and the Smoke Dragon” in Fantastic Wonder Stories, ed. Russell B. Farr (Ticonderoga Publications).
◾2008 Ditmar Award Nomination, Best Novella/Novelette
◾2008 Aurealis Award Nomination, Young Adult short story
Jerico's charm lies in his red hair, according to himself. As a Paladin of Ashhur, he fights for light/life/order. As fate would have it he has actually befriended a traditional Ashhurian enemy - a Paladin of Karak. Karak stands for dark/death (non-life)/chaos. Darius thinks his charm lies in his personality. These guys are really supposed to try to kill each other. Instead they are working together for the good of the village they live in and both of them struggle with their consciences because of it.
On the other side of the river that is next to the village Durham a clan of wolf-men live (see picture above). Well actually they are wolf-people because there are wolf-women too. The wolf-people are desperate to get away from the Waste (the place where they live). To do so they will even gather their clans together into a unit led by a wolf-king and try to attack the human side of the river.
Both Jerico and Darius are interesting personalities. Their struggles with their beliefs of what they are supposed to be like make for interesting tension in the novel. But the really fun parts come in the action that the wolf-people engender. We all know that I like action and "Night of Wolves" has plenty of it. The tone in the first novel of The Paladins is lighter than the tone in "The Weight of Blood". Interesting to see the difference between the two. I like authors who veer from formulas used with one character to try on something new. Good on you Mr. Dalglish.
There is a timeline for Dalglish' books. You can find it on his website. However, that does not mean you have to read the books in that order. I haven't.
David Dalglish has created a world called Drezel. Once upon a time the brothers Ashhur and Karak came to Drezel and ended up representing dark/chaos/death and light/order/life. They are godlike-creatures who have been cast from the planet and acquired followers. Like many brothers out there Ashhur and Karak fight. Unfortunately that usually involves getting their followers to fight each other.
"The Weight of Blood" is a dark story, one of death and destruction. The Half-Orc brothers Harruq and Qurrah Tun are responsible for quite a bit of that destruction. These two brothers seem very different yet Harruq would do just about anything for Qurrah, even if it means killing children or friends. What Qurrah will discover in "The Weight of Blood" is just how far he can drive his brother. Because one thing is for sure, Qurrah manipulates his brother. In spite of this, the brothers have great love for each other.
Dalglish writes dark fantasy well. His characters are complex and loveable (in spite of their deeds). Life isn't a matter of black and white in Dalglish's litterary world. Instead we get shades of grey that mirror real life.
I loved his writing and the world he has created.
I love this cover. "Flying Fish" was painted by the Victorian painter Herbert James Draper. It illustrates perfectly the longing of the witch in the novel. In my head that is what "The Witch Sea" is about. Longing to belong, to have someone to love and to love you back.
Being responsible for holding the magical net surrounding her island is becoming a difficult task for Meriel. She is no longer certain of the beliefs that her mother and grandmother have tried to imprint on her.
Both Meriel's longing and the longing of the sea-people shines through Diemer's prose. Very minor-key and absolutely lovely.
The author makes a point of this being a lesbian fantasy short story. Once it was pointed out to me, I could see it.
"The Witch Sea" won first place in the "Kissed by Venus Fresh Voices" short story competition.
"With Good Intentions" was first published by Necrotic Tissue in 2009. Bureaucracy is bureaucracy whether you are on Earth or in Hell.
"Lilitol the Curmudgeon" was first published by Bards and Sages Quarterly in 2011. We get to see "X-mas" from the point of view of Jilgar, the dragon.
"Hellhound Rescue" was first published by Flash Scribe in 2009. Not all pets are easy pets.
"Blue Moon" is a tale about love and exes and sacrifice.
Nicky Drayden har written short stories full of humor and quirckyness. It did not take long to get through the collection and I enjoyed the journey.
The Diablo Ouija is a Haward Mysteries short story. The Haward Mysteries are about the police officers Remy and Theo Haward at the Sorcerous Crimes Taskforce's, Murder Squad. With a name like that for a task-force you can probably imagine that their investigations most probably involve something inexplicable. The title of the short story also makes it obvious we are dealing with the super-natural/para-normal.
I'm not saying the twins are insane, but a little unorthodoxy is the least of their qualities. They are on the look-out for an incredibly dangerous magical item: (drumroll) The Diablo Ouija. Three teenagers are already dead and Remy and Theo suspect they have not seen the last victims yet. When they turn to Theo's old boss, retired DCI Swanson, for information about the old case, they discover something they had not previously known, something that will lead them into dangers untold.
Like most brothers, Theo and Remy are very different. In spite of their differences, they are willing to go to any length to make certain the other brother is safe. The Diablo Ouija tests their loyalty to each other. We get plenty of creep-factor but no tipping over into horror. An enjoyable tale.
What if there was a way to manufacture magic, make it real somehow? Kim Cowie has written 26 excellent pages about what might happen if science managed to make the super-natural/para-normal accessible. Knowing humans, I find Kim's story pretty believable.
The ending is perfect.
Anna Wolfe understands the flow. I love it when authors drag me in and I am unable to let go. I finished "Bitten" and immediately bought "Addicted". Upon finishing that I felt annoyed that Wolfe had no more to sell me. Authors should consider doing something about that. Needing to be patient is a bummer.
Callie is a fascinating character. In the prologue we get our first taste of her right after she has gotten her first and last taste of Owen. It is obvious that the girl is struggling with her demon-infection because killing Owen felt soooo much better than Callie wants it to.
Quite literally we are off to a killer start. While the first scene was violent, the rest is not about violence, far from it.
Imagine the relief and terror it must have inspired in Callie to discover that she was not the only demon-bitten person running around in the world. Here you are living life with parents and a brother you love and then - kaboom - you get bitten by a demonridden best friend, watch your brother have his head torn off by that same friend and end up killing that friend yourself. All in a day's work. In Callie's case it got her thrown into a psychiatric institution from which she ended up running away from.
Then some other crazies find her and claim they too are infected and somehow those crazies become her family - a slightly dysfunctional family, but Callie is used to dysfunction.
Silas is the one who is in charge. He has the most experience with the demon/witch world. Edie and Mark are his students. All of them have great respect for Callie's powers but are prepared to kill her if she becomes a danger (their definition of danger). Callie is greatly relieved knowing that. Edie seems afraid of her and Mark cannot decide whether he lusts after Callie.
At the outset I want to make you aware of the British English / Scottish English phrasing and spelling in "Wolves and War". NOT American English!!! Because of the sometimes young phrasing, I feel "Wolves and War" is meant for young adults and up. While harsh at times the violence is not descriptive. There is some romance, but it is about as innocent as romance can get. What you do need to remember (sort of a warning) is that "Wolves and War" is about war and war is anything but nice.
On to the fun stuff.
I really enjoyed "Wolves and War". At times I hurt because of the terrible changes to the lives of some of the women and children. War's nature is gruesome. I have NEVER experienced it myself and am speaking solely as one who reads and listens and watches. What amazes me time and again is what people are willing to put up with if the alternative is death. Often I have wondered why people choose to live rather than kill themselves when their lives become so miserable. Some of the lives on the Southern Continent end up being what I would call gruesome. Yet, somehow life is chosen. Why?
"Wolves and War" does not answer my why. In fact, it leaves me there with my questions. Ms. Rae has done a brilliant thing in doing that because I do not really want another person to answer all my whys. I don't even need there to be an answer to my whys.
"Wolves and War" is a space opera type of Science Fiction - character and world-building is more important than technology.
When the Argyll has to land on the Northern Continent the crew and settlers have to abandon ship before it sinks leaving them without most of their doodads (I know, an extremely technological term). Until war comes to the Northern Continent life is somewhat easier there than on the Southern Continent and the lack of metals is compensated by making tools with a metal-like hardwood. Necessity is the mother of invention even if that invention is a re-invention of old earth weapons. Their smith makes swords, shields, helmets, armour, crossbows and something he calls a contrap:
"... was able to fire pre-loaded arrows a fair distance and thirty at a time. The arrows were loaded into a wooded frame he called a magazine that was placed on the main frame of the contraption itself. The firing mechanism was spring-loaded and the magazine was drawn back and then loosed. Distance and trajectory could be altered by the manipulation of wheels and cogs."
All of this preparation would have been impossible without the Aboriginals of the planet of wolves. The Lind are great hulking beasts about the size of a horse but with the look of a wolf about them. They are furry, snouty and have paws. Somehow both the Lind and the Larg of the Southern Continent have developed telepathic abilities along with the ability to form words. The word thing made me think that their snouts must be formed differently from a wolf's.
What interested the Linds at first about the humans is how humans use their hands and the seeming connection some of the Lind have with some of the humans. Being able to communicate via mind and words is essential in making the humans believe that the Lind are sentient creatures.
Tara is the first human to meet a Lind. Kolyei is a Lind that feels a connection with Tara. Tara is not alone in this ability. On the Northern Continent Tara and Kolyei and Jim and Larya are the two vadeln pairs we get to know most. Tara is only 12 at the time she and Kolyei meet while Jim is in his 40's. Their Lind bond-person is pretty well matched age wise and this is a good thing as these bonds seem to be for life and so deep that one part does not wish to live if the other party dies. A lot of animal-human bond stories seem to have this as the down-side of bonding. On the up-side is an understanding of the other race's traits and language along with a deep sense of being loved unconditionally.
I enjoyed the way Ms. Rae tried to not sugar-coat anything for me as a reader. Granted, the fighting was not as gory as fighting really is, but it did not have to be for me to understand the costs of the war between the Southern and Northern Continents. She also did not try to hide the problems that would arise with 20,000 male prisoners escaping into an environment where females are on the run and only 300. When the leader of the prisoners is unscrupulous, well - things go as they pretty much have to go.
Being a colony vessel, the Argyll crew and passengers did not have the same dilemmas nor the same type of people to work with. Without a doubt, that is where I would have wanted to be. Both the North and the South end up with aliens and a landscape that fits with the humans landing there. Any other option would have seen the humans from the Argyll killed and possibly the Lind of the Northern Continent in pretty bad shape as well. As a reader I am glad Ms. Rae chose as she did.